Horseshoe Ski (14 May 2020) – The mountain whose journey nearly killed me
(Last Updated On: May 27, 2020)
Horseshoe. The mountain whose journey nearly killed me. On July 6th last year, Frank and I were headed to ski that peak. I had noted about a week prior that Boudoir couloir was still “in”. But as we traveled down the bumpy road on that fateful morning, we noticed it had since melted. As we discussed other options, we stopped in a parking lot where I wanted to access a map in the back of my car. And in that very moment, my life changed in an instant. Next thing I knew, I was sitting up, screaming, blood pouring down my face, leg mangled. I didn’t even feel my broken neck yet. With no cell service, we knew self-rescue was our best option. Passersbys helped lift me into the back of the car. And down the bumpy road we went. That’s when the neck pain starred. And I cursed with nearly every bump.
The road hasn’t gotten any smoother. And the mountain still stands. Since my accident, I had always known I wanted to return to ski it – whether is was this season or another, was the question. But, cards aligned. Weather and access opened up so that on Thursday May 14th, we were finally able to return and ski Horseshoe in good conditions.
While traveling on the bumpy road we reminisced about where the ambulance and helicopter each came to get me.
I am so thankful for such a quick response from Park County EMS and Frisco’s St. Anthony’s Flight For Life helicopter. From the time the incident happened to when I arrived at St. Anthony’s in Denver was well under two hours. Thank you to Frank and Susan for both showing up to the hospital shortly after my arrival, and for joining me on this meaningful day.
But, we didn’t stop at the site where the helicopter landed, or where the ambulance scooped me up. Today, the mountain lured us.
Roads like this are generally not being maintained by local authorities due to COVID-19 restrictions. But, someone came in here with an excavator and plowed most of the road to Leavick. We were thankful for this. It’s amazing how people can step up and take care of the things that matter to them most. If there’s one thing I appreciate about this Coronavirus bizarro world, it’s that. They even posted a sign indicating where to park so people wouldn’t try to go further, and likely get stuck.
We skinned on the road a little ways, and as we made the turn toward Horsehoe, we gaze upon the general area of the scene of my accident last July 6th. We were just a little further up this road, in a small lot with an incline.
It was a beautiful morning with moody weather.
The scenery complimented the mood – some areas well-covered with snow, and others nearly devoid of it. This area is full of contrasts.
It’s pretty obvious why this peak is named “Horseshoe Mountain”.
Our ascent would have us follow the gentle snow slopes on the right. Our descent would take us down the Boudoir Couloir which is the obvious snow break through the rocks just left of the peak. The southeast slopes that make up the left side of the horseshoe would also make a fun, but mellow, ski.
We skinned on.
A scene of contrasts was fitting for the moment.
Sometimes we had to hug the rocks to avoid a potential cornice fall to our left.
The weather was rather blustery on the summit. It was definitely a return to winter. So, we quickly transitioned, and made our way down the ridge to the start of our line.
Views of the Sawatch Range from the summit.
We paused at the abandoned cabin that more or less marks the start of the Boudoir Couloir.
Then we skied 🙂 Frank.
Regrouping at the bottom, with Boudoir Couloir behind Susan and Frank.
Frank and I with Horseshoe Mountain behind.
One last look at Horseshoe, the mountain whose journey nearly killed me.
The bumpy road keeps going as my recovery continues. I have passed many a milestone and I couldn’t be happier to be where I am and able to do what I can do. But evidence of the accident still lingers. I still have metal in both my neck and my femur. I still don’t have feeling parts of my left hand and the pinky on my right hand is thickened and refuses to straighten. I continue to have an occluded vertebral artery, blocking blood flow to my brain and presenting a constant risk of a stoke. Aside from multiple scars all over my body, I also have swollen thighs, likely from a car tire running over them – scar tissue from trauma and surgery on the left, and a large persistent seroma on the right. I continue to have weakness in my left arm and some torn tissue in my pectorals still causes me pain. I have lost significant range of motion in my neck and work every day to gain more of it back. My body is forever changed.
These things are what they are. But I am not complaining because I am well aware that it could have been so much worse. I am lucky to be able to walk, let alone ski and bike, all of this just 10 months after.
Life is not always easy. But I am a big believer that challenges are obstacles we must overcome. The greater the challenge, the more enriching to who you are as a person. The world has changed in these last few months and we are all presented with new challenges we had never imagined before, just like I faced after my accident. But, just as I dug deep to thrive in my recovery, we all must dig deep to thrive in a world that is different from what we are used to. Just like I have had to do during my recovery, we must adjust to a new norm, and be appreciative of what we do have. Don’t strive for things to go back to the way they were because that may never happen. Don’t let fear and negative energy fill you, though it wants to suck you in. Instead, look for the light and focus on the positives happening in the world. They are everywhere. Just like I recovered from my accident, we can recover from this Coronavirus too, if we remain positive, embrace ingenuity, and believe in ourselves. Here’s to us healing together!
Brittany Walker Konsella
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