170719 – Trouble at Mt Thielsen

Day:  087
Date:  Wednesday, 19 July 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1843.9, 5935 ft
Finish:  Camped by the trail at Thielsen Creek at Mile 1853.6, 6936 ft
Daily Miles:  9.3 PCT,  plus 3.0 through navigation error
Total PCT Miles:  1313.3
Weather:  Cool early then warm and sunny
Accommodation:  Tent
     Breakfast:  Chocolate pies and peanuts
     Lunch:  Candy and peanuts
     Dinner:  Rehydrated chilli mac with cheese
Aches:  Damage to lower left ribs and abdomen, and grazed head and hip from fall
Highlight: The jagged rocky spire of the 9000 ft Mt Thielsen dominated the hike today.
Lowlight:  Firstly, in mid-morning I took the wrong trail at an intersection high on the shoulder of Mt Thielsen.  I felt a little uneasy at the time, but looked around and couldn’t see another trail or signage.  What I should have done is consult my map, but I didn’t and paid for it with a downhill jaunt of 1.5 miles and over 1000 ft, before realising my mistake.  It cost 90 minutes all up and a lot of energy and I was not happy with myself.  Not long afterwards, and perhaps related, I slipped on a snowcovered edge of the trail on a steep slope, lost my footing completely, and fell head first onto boulders below.  I managed to protect my head but the full weight of my body and loaded pack drove my lower left ribs onto a pointed rock and that’s where I lay, upside down and winded, for about 30 seconds. It took me a while to extricate myself and I was in a lot of pain from the ribs.  See below for the rest of the story.

Pictures:  Click here

Map:  Click here for Google Map

The day started well, with a lovely section of relatively flat forest before the trail began a long climb up the shoulder of the distinctive steep rocky peak of Mt Thielsen.  On reaching a trail intersection, I made a stupid navigation error (see above) and cost myself a lot of time and the early night I had promised myself.

After recovering from the error, I found the right trail on the north side of the mountain and with it lots of snow.  On a not particularly scary bit, probably due to inattention, I fell and badly injured my ribs (see above).  My fear was that I may have broken them and also done myself some internal damage because the pain was fierce and the whole area very tender to touch.  I had trouble doing anything like bending down, picking up my pack or putting any weight on my left trekking pole, but still had to negotiate a scary steep snow slope, followed by a lot of other snow requiring care before I reached Thielsen Creek, the only water for the day (about five metres of creek exposed in a valley otherwise covered in snow).  My descent had been slow and painful and I was feeling occasionally nauseous and lightheaded. 

Suspecting I was probably suffering from shock, and not knowing how serious the injury was, I decided to set up camp, an incredibly slow and painful experience, have an early dinner, and put myself to bed at around 4:30pm.  Any kind of movement was excruciating and I could only tolerate lying on my right side, and even then couldn’t move without waking myself up with a gasp.  I thought my injury was likely to be hike-ending, or delaying, and slept fitfully, suspecting I might be too sore to hike the two days out to civilisation and therefore have to use my emergency beacon in the morning (for a helicopter rescue) if it looked like there was an internal injury.

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2 Responses to 170719 – Trouble at Mt Thielsen

  1. Hi Dave
    So sorry to hear about your injury. Mt Thielsen is the worst of the snow you will hit in Oregon. All else going north is on manageable slopes and is melting quickly. And hang in there with the mozzies. They definitely decreased after Elk Lake.
    Cheers Corky


  2. Dave Byrnes says:

    Just arrived in Sisters and will have a zero day here tomorrow, Corky. Yes, I noticed fewer mozzies yesterday and today. Will be interested in how much snow you see in Washington, and will be reading your blog later today. I’ve been carrying my crampons since Chester without using them and would really like to get rid of them. You must be able to smell the finish now 🙂


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