I was awakened at 2:30am by someone in my bunkroom chanting “RACE DAY RACE DAY RACE DAY.” They all left soon after that, but had made no attempt to be quiet, and they left the light on, so I never got back to sleep. I finally went upstairs at 4:45, had breakfast, and waited for my ride. My stomach felt better but I was running on very little sleep and had kind of a headache, so when my ride was an hour late, I started to think maybe I shouldn’t do it today. But I was back at the Mt Massive Trailhead at 6:30am and the fresh air helped. Today I was starting at 10082′ and only 4.8 miles from the summit of Mt Elbert at 14433′. It’s Saturday and this is the highest peak in the state, so there were tons of people out.
I made it to treeline after a while and stopped for a snack break before losing shade for the day. I had left most of my gear at the hostel so my pack was much lighter than yesterday and I was moving along just fine. I was moving slowly, but I felt great. I made myself stop every hour for more water and food.
I thought I had seen the summit from the treeline, but it turned out the be the first of two false summits. I ended up doing a rock scramble to the top of the first false summit because the trail had split in two and I took the wrong one. It was pretty climb-y, and then petered out completely, so I just finished climbing the rocks to the top. The problem with the second false summit was that it kept getting taller the higher I went up. The real summit was very soon after that though. I got to enjoy the views with about fifty other people. So crowded! There were even some mountain bikers up there, having pushed their bikes from below treeline, who were super psyched to ride down.
I was at the summit at 11am, hung out for half an hour, then headed back down. I’d gone up the North Elbert Trail and decided to go down the South Elbert Trail. It would put me back on the Colorado Trail having skipped 3.5 miles, but I think the 7 miles over the summit that I replaced it with were a little more interesting. I know I was going down, but the South Elbert Trail seemed the easier of the two. I was moving quickly, had lunch when I got back below treeline, and kept going, with plans to get all the way to the Twin Lakes Dam before hitching back to town.
Then I fell. The trail was pretty steep, and made up of loose sand and rocks, so I had slipped a few times before and was fine. This time I went down and my right ankle seemed to bend inward. I knew it was bad immediately. I could move my toes, and even move my ankle still at first, but then it started swelling and that went away. A guy showed up a minute later and stopped to help me. I sat there for a little bit, hoping the pain would go away, but when I started feeling around, it was much worse. I took some ibuprofen and Tyler splinted my ankle with two sticks and a bandage I had in my first aid kit.
Just as we were getting ready to start hobbling down, although I wasn’t exactly sure how, two girls stopped to help too. Tyler took my pack, and Meredith and Emilee each took one of my trekking poles, and I stood between them with an arm around each of their shoulders and hopped on my good leg. It was very slow moving since the trail was steep and rocky and I could only hop for so long. The trail narrowed and we couldn’t do three across any more so Tyler offered a piggyback ride. We started alternating riding and hopping. Everyone who passed said the Colorado Trail junction was only a half mile further, but they kept saying that even after it felt like we’d gone some ways.
Tyler and the girls were parked at the lower trailhead, which was at least a mile and a half further, but we ran into some guys out for a bachelor party who had a truck at the highest trailhead and said they’d help out. Some of them stayed with us and Luke joined in on the piggyback rides. There was a lot of military talk going on as Tyler is in the Army, one of the other guys is retired Army, and the girls are almost done at the Air Force Academy. I really ran into some great people!
We made it to the truck and then had some fun four wheeling getting back down to the lower trailhead. Luke dropped us all off and Tyler drove me back to Leadville. I called Whisper on the way and she said she’d come get me. Once she picked me up, we headed to the hospital for an xray. I have a pretty good ability to be delusional about my injuries so I was still hoping it was just a bad twist and maybe I’d take a few days off before continuing my hike. Whisper had a very similar injury in the Smokies last year though and had to take a month off for a sprain. She actually got off the mountain with some horse mounted rangers when she was injured and I was just saying the other day how cool that was. Oops.
Everything went fairly quickly and the doctor came in and told me I had a fibular fracture. Basically my outer ankle bone is fractured. Everything is still in the right place so probably no surgery, but I obviously need to follow up with an orthopedist. It might be sprained as well but he didn’t want to move my ankle around to see. Two nurses came in and set me up with a temporary cast and crutches until I see someone in a few days and get a walking boot. The doctor said I could be non-weight bearing for six weeks, or maybe two to four. I’m really hoping for the shorter time frame since it’s only four weeks until I was supposed to start hiking the Long Trail. Unfortunately, it’s my right foot, so I can’t even rent a car and drive around Colorado.
Whisper took me home and Mailman met us with McDonald’s. They both have to work tomorrow but she set me up with everything I could possibly need during the day.
It looks like my Colorado Trail hike is over but I’m still hopeful for my other two planned hikes. I’m debating whether to stay here for the follow up in case it’s not as bad as it seems, or go home. I have no apartment and my stuff is all stored since I planned to be gone three months but there are plenty of places I can stay. I need to make some calls in the morning.