I've hinted at this in #Pubski, but I'm finally at my parents' home in a warm, safe bed. So, here's the story of how I broke my leg and learned the true value of friendship!
TL;DR - I almost pulled a 127 Hours. RESPECT THE BUDDY SYSTEM.
On Wednesday I had the misfortune of breaking my fibula and tibia in the Narrows hike of Zion National Park.
"The Narrows" trail runs through a slot canyon carved by the Virgin river, the primary features being two colossal sandstone walls enclosing a narrow spring-fed river. The trail is 'paved' with running water and slippery riverstones - it's been likened to hiking on greased bowling balls.
To give you an idea, here's a picture of our dear protagonist, 15 minutes before he fucks himself:
I started hiking on Wednesday at 9:30 in the morning. By 11:45 I was at the Orderville Junction of the Narrows canyon, which has an optional fork-in-the road to an even more narrow canyon with a tributary stream (pictured above). While going up the Orderville canyon, I had to ascend over a large boulder that blocked my path. As I was doing so, I saw a group of people jumping from the boulder for fun. On my way back down Orderville canyon, I had to descend that same boulder.
Have you ever had an authority figure ask you, "If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you follow them?" Adapted for my purposes, it's more like, "If a group of total strangers jumped off of a large boulder, would you do the same thing in a dangerous canyon with a handful of witnesses?"
Right. This was at noon.
Sparing the details, I broke my leg when I landed in the river below. I dragged myself to a sandbar and immediately knew that my bones were fractured. I also knew that I had to get out of the canyon as quickly as humanly possible to get medical help.
By sheer luck, an incredibly helpful hiker named Connor was nearby. After hearing my cries for help, Connor carried me the quarter mile back to the Orderville junction. While I was with Connor, I nearly passed out from pain - for a few minutes, it sounded like the river beneath me was 1,000 miles away and coming through a tinny speaker. Connor sat me down and gave me some water, after which we continued on towards Orderville Junction.
When we got there at 12:45, we called Search and Rescue using the satellite phone of a friendly passerby. S&R told them to get me out of the canyon as quickly as possible because they anticipated rain in the evening - rain which, in a slot canyon, would inevitably lead to a deadly flash flood.
With some quick thinking, Connor recruited more hikers to help carry me out of The Narrows while S&R worked their way up towards us from the bottom of the trail. They fashioned a makeshift stretcher using hiking sticks, shoelaces, and a backpack, and a splint out of driftwood and bandages.
The stretcher was too short, and my head and shoulders had to hang off the end. The splint was hastily made, and the sticks would slip and pull my broken bones together uncomfortably.
You can see the stretcher here:
And the splint here:
In all, eight men worked in shifts to carry me two and a half miles through slippery, shifting, dangerous terrain to avoid leaving me in a flash flood that I'm certain would have killed me. When we met up with Search and Rescue, they put me on a boat (and a proper stretcher!), and dragged me through the stream to a road where an ambulance was waiting.
I got out of the canyon four hours after breaking my bone, and would receive painkillers (other than ibuprofen) for the first time four and a half hours after breaking my leg. Later, an S&R agent told me that, without the help I received, their plan was to give me a rain jacket and radio before setting me on high land. He said they would have left me there overnight.
I still feel melodramatic saying it, but I'm confident I would have died if not for the help of complete strangers. Their display of compassion towards me has been moving to say the least, and I tear up a little thinking about how they dropped everything to save me. I'll be in recovery for the next several months, but I'm just happy to be alive.
Thanks for those who read this far. Here's a picture at the end of the makeshift rescue operation:
SO, if you have any questions I'd be happy to answer them. If you've got any admonishments to lay on me, I'm ready to receive them. I'd like to give the fun parts of my trip their own write-up, but I felt like you all deserved the full story of how my vacation ended!
Here's some bonus footage of me lying on the ground, probably moaning in pain? Who knows!
(PS: I know I look happy in some of the pictures post-break. I learned about myself that I get very talkative and jokey when I'm in pain and/or scared. These are all taken after the initial wave of pain where I almost passed out. Obviously.)
I'm glad you learned a thing or two about risk in a well-traveled environment. I'm particularly glad you learned it at a young and impressionable age.
Which is not to say I'm glad you broke your leg or cut your vacation short. That sucks. But the "I'm going to jump off a rock into a slippery canyon of rocks" impulse is one that some people never learn from.
Now read (or re-read) the following with a new sense of appreciation.