Self Arrest

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So, there I was, on the edge of Mount Baker, sliding down the side of a steep glacier, careening uncontrollably towards the edge of a crevasse. Slipping into the frozen ditch would mean certain death. My only hope was to self arrest, using my ice axe as a brake. I swung it over and over, trying to get it to catch hold into the hard, crusty ice that had turned into a luge of death. Finally, just feet before the edge of the crevasse and an icy death, the axe bit into the ice and my body jerked to a stop. I could feel the bones in my arm pop from my body’s force, but I held on tight. And that’s how I broke my elbow.

It’s not true at all, but that’s the story I’m going to tell people when they ask me. I might add a bit about a group of orphans I was guiding on Baker at the time, but that’s the general plot line. Glacier. Self arrest. Heroics. It’s a hell of a lot better than the true story—I broke my elbow while playing softball. I went for a hard ground ball and just fell on it wrong. Because I’m old and my bones are brittle, the elbow snapped. I said a lot of very loud, dirty things and then almost passed out. That’s it. Not much glory in that injury story.

It’s the first bone I’ve ever broken, too, and not for a lack of trying. I’ve done some incredibly stupid shit in my day and have come out relatively unscathed. I’ve had a lot of dislocations, and I’m usually bleeding from some spot on my body, but I’ve never broken anything. One time, I even had a bowl of acid thrown in my face. No kidding. But nothing broken. Until now. While playing softball.

Honestly, I’m taking it as a sign that my so-called “dangerous” lifestyle isn’t that dangerous at all. I’ve officially been hurt more on the softball field, a mile from my own house, than I have mountain biking down sketchy terrain or skiing the backcountry or climbing a granite slab. People say adventure sports are dangerous, I say the suburbs are dangerous. I’ll be sure to return to the safety of the wilderness as soon as I can. In six to eight weeks, after my bones have mended.

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