On skiing and stiches

“When did you do this?” The PA stares at my finger. It’s Anchorage and I know her, so I can’t just ignore her you’re a moron look.

“Umm.. Around 4.” I reply.

She checks her watch. “18 hours ago?”

I nod sheepishly.

“And why didn’t you come to see me right away?”

“Ummm … I didn’t think it looked so bad.”

“Have you actually looked at your finger?” She squeezes as she speaks and I turn pale and feel lightheaded.

18 hours ago I was trying to get down to a creek in my skis when I slipped and fell into the creek. Up to my knees. In my skis. While trying to get out I sliced my finger open and blood started squirting everywhere. Todd, my ski partner, was laughing so hysterically at my clumsiness I had to practically beg him to pull me out.

Later that night I opted to go to a party instead of the doctor. My wife gave me a you‘re a moron look. My finger was wrapped in about 3 inches of gauze and I kept forgetting when shaking peoples’ hands which inevitably led to moans of pain.

“What’d you do to your finger?” everyone asks.

“Oh… Caught it on my ski edge.”

“You sliced it open with your ski edge?” someone responds. “I did that to my dog once.”

It’s 70 and everyone is in shorts and outside. Since everyone is a skier they all say, “You went skiing today?”

“Well kind of,” I explain. “We carried our skis for 12 miles so we could ski a 13 minute run.”

Noting the exposed Ptarmigan couloir to ridge traverse.

N Face of Avalanche. Thin White Line lies behind the promininent West Buttress.

It’s an Anchorage ski party which means there are a bunch of Olympians there. A former Olympic free skier, says, “Wow! 13 minutes? That’s a long run!” I don’t have the stomach to tell him it takes me 13 minutes to ski 500′ so I just smile.

The food and beer flows and I start to forget about the walk.

“Oh the skiing was great,” I tell people. “It was actually powder! And the couloir we skied… Man… World class!”

Down the NW couloir of the Ramp.

10 hours before the party and 24 hours before the doctor, Todd and I were walking up a valley with skis and boots strapped to our backs. We walked 5 miles before we transitioned to skis and even then we only got to ski at most 2 miles before transitioning back to boots.

We were at the top of the run around noon and collapsed in the 70-degree sun. The snow on southern aspects had already gone completely isothermal and Anchorage lay covered in a thick coat of Chinese smog.

Later that night standing in a corner, my tongue loosened by at least 4 beers I tell the story, “Oh the Northwest couloir of the Ramp is a great run. Easy entrance but then it rolls to 50 followed by a tight dogleg. The snow was soft but the fall line isn’t so great so I was on edge the whole time you know? It’s one of those can’t fall places because you’ll roll through rocks.”

NW Ridge of Williwaw.

I stuff a meatball in my mouth and continue, “oh you probably won’t die you know… It’s not that bad… Just get beat up a bunch.” Between the throbbing in my finger and the alcohol in my bloodstream, I can’t tell if the people around me are nodding or rolling their eyes.

Todd down the Ramp.

Todd and I skied the run down to the valley floor where I spied water and crawled down towards a creek to try and fill my water bottle. I fell and sliced my finger and the next thing I knew I was laying in the snow squirting blood with my head down and feet in the air while Todd applied pressure and wrapped my finger with gauze and tape. This in turn was followed by an 8-mile walk out with a broken boot locked into a perpetually steep aggressive downhill stance.

The snow had long since melted and we carried our skis and boots. What little snow there was consisted of crotch deep rotten muck. A final ski yielded more grass turns than snow.

The Ballfield is always a slog…

But none of this was said at the party as I inhaled shrimp cocktail, ice cream and beer. The story was all about the wonderful 55 degree couloir and me slipping backwards at the crux and splitting open my finger while trying to avoid the slide for life.

I nod smugly and tell the story over and over again. The you‘re a moron look is clouded by beer and I expound. By the end of the night I am cornering people with a plate of meatballs and glass of beer and telling them a tale of hucking the 60 degree bergschrund and catching my finger while sticking the landing.

11 hours after 6 or 7 beers I’m lying on the cot while the PA stitches me up. “You waited too long so I have to keep the stitches loose. And the risk of infection is very high”. 3 hours after getting stitched up I’m wiping the baby and look down to see my band-aid lying on the ground and my bare, bloody, and stiched finger sunk into a very dirty diaper.

I look at my young daughter and for a second I swear I can see the you’re a moron look. But then she laughs and I forget about the throbbing finger. Picking her up I toss her in the air and in between her giggles I tell her, “Oh the skiing was great. It was actually powder! And the couloir we skied… Man… World class!”