As for the recovery, I'll be keeping my left leg fully splinted (immobile) for 10 days following the accident. While Friday after being released from the ED I was feeling OK, Saturday I woke up in quite a bit of pain. It wasn't until Monday that I was able to really lift my left leg at all (scary feeling) and Tuesday until I could walk (sort of) again. At this point in time (Wednesday) I'm able to get around for about 5 minutes or so before needing to sit and rest the leg. Hopefully once the wound closes the bounce back won't be super long...
As you can imagine, I've had a great deal of time to think about what happened and how this accident could have been avoided. At the same time, I've had a lot of time to reflect on how many things went my way, mainly as a result of being well prepared and equipped.
Lets start with the accident itself. At the end of the day, this was a very avoidable accident, and ultimately has become a costly lesson in caution. As a relatively new backcountry skier (and skier at all for that matter), my main mistake was the failure to observe. Skiing at the resort is one thing, you hop of the chair, pick a color and go, knowing all well that there probably isn't some major obstacle lying in wait to deceive and injure you. The same does not hold true in the backcountry. The mountains are full of objective hazards, and the Cog, while relatively mellow, is an easy place to let your guard down. As soon as the terrain went from steep to mellow and open, I noticed my focus dissipate, the fun and joy of powder skiing take over. Had I taken an extra moment to stop observe the terrain below me, and chose a line intentionally based on observation and reasoning (as one should when backcountry skiing) I have no doubt that I would have noticed the secondary rail and avoided it. While it was buried, and hard to notice in places, certain characteristics of the terrain would have given it away. Choosing the terrain you ski, and how you ski it, is a fundamental decision making and risk avoidance skill of backcountry skiing, one I have clearly yet to master.
Now moving onto things that went well. When all is said in done I am lucky that things went as well as they did. Getting pulled out of the woods in about two hours after your accident when you're a mile from the trailhead and 1000' up in elevation is pretty much unheard of. While there really isn't ever a good place to get injured... but... the Cog is a pretty good place to get injured. Combine that with the fact that NH Fish and Game were close by and otherwise unoccupied that afternoon, and I was back at the parking lot before I knew it. That, and the fact that I had a stocked medkit, extra layers, a portable battery for my phone, a running GPS (Gaia app) and a partner with medical training, this was a situation that we were well equipped and had trained for. Knowing how Search and Rescue was organized in NH, and having the ability to instantly read off accurate Lat & Long, the Fish and Game had no issue reaching me.
Here is my advice to you:
1. Even the "mellowest" adventures hold the potential for injury. If this happened to you, would you have known what to do? If the answer is no, the solution is to seek professional training. At a minimum, take a Wilderness First Aid class if not a Wilderness First Responder course. These skills are invaluable and last a lifetime. Carry a med-kit, always. Don't just buy a med-kit and throw it in your bag. Start with a pre-made kit and customize it to your needs. Do you need 15 bandaids and anti-sting relief, no, but you do need extra gauze, and cravats. Don't know what a cravat is, click HERE.
2. Carry a portable phone charger. I can't tell you how comforting it was knowing that my phone wasn't going to die as I was coordinating with first responders. Goal Zero makes a cheep, and light charger that will now ALWAYS live in my pack.
3. Know where you are. Google Maps is not a backcountry GPS app. If you are in a location without cell service (most backcountry areas) being able to tell where you are is critical to first responders. Gaia GPS is a fantastic GPS app that can not only tell you where you are, but is incredibly useful for navigation and training. For $20, I highly recommend it. If you chose another program, be sure that you can download maps and view them offline, as well as access your realtime lat & long.
I owe a number of folks huge thanks for assisting me. First, to Jacob who did a fantastic job caring for me while we awaited rescue, transported me to the hospital, and eagerly watched and took photos as I was being sewn up. His ability to respond quickly and without hesitation is a perfect example of why medical training is critical. A huge thanks as well to the NH Fish and Game Department for quickly organizing and effective rescue, and picking me up. Next, to Steve and Amy who after a full day of working/skiing, drove 3 hours to pick me up, threw me in the car, and drove three hours home to Burlington, got up the next morning, and went to work the next day. Of course, to the many friends who have reached out, stopped by, brought me dinner or offered their assistance, I thank you. Thanks to Tim, Sarah and my co-workers at Petra Cliffs for jumping in and helping out while I'm unable to work. And finally, to Sophia, my amazing partner, who since Friday evening has been by my side, helping me with everything that I have been unable to do (which turns out is quite a bit). I would literally be stuck in my bed without her.
Be safe, and have fun out there.