The Time I Froze My Ass Off…Literally

I finally feel like it’s time for me to come out and explain why I haven’t been hiking much in the last few months and tell the story of what happened to me on my last hike, Midnight Peak. I’m hoping this will give people a laugh and possibly help teach others to stay within their limits when climbing mountains. Yes it is good to push yourself, but sometimes you can pay for it. In this case, I paid with my butt cheeks, haha!

Back in December, on the 17th to be exact (the day before my birthday), my friend Shae and I decided to hike Midnight Peak in Kananaskis. This was a hike that I had been looking forward to because I had been so busy with school and work, and I hadn’t had a chance to get out much before that. Midnight was a peak that was on my list for a while, and after doing some research and asking around I figured it would be within my ability to hike. This would have been absolutely true if the conditions were ideal, but they were far from it. If you’ve hiked with me you know that I am still terrified of heights and am still learning to trust my footing on steep sections with exposure and/or scree. So hiking up and down an almost 45 degree scree slope that was covered in crunchy, loose, pellet like snow was a bit of a challenge for me. I think if the conditions had been any other way, say deep snow or no snow at all, I could have handled it no problem. For some reason, this peak just scared me. BAD. Now I know anyone who has hiked this peak or scrambled something worse will be thinking “Oh yeah, what a wimp. I’ve done that in such and such conditions and it was fine,” or “I have done WAY worse!” Well, all I have to say is good for you. Everyone has different abilities and everyone has different limits, and I pushed mine way too far that day. Go ahead and call me a fair weather hiker haha…I am totally fine with that!

Shae and I reached the trailhead at 8 a.m. eager and ready to reach a summit. It was about -5 and we were as bundled up as we should be. We did the hike to Baldy Pass and everything was great. We were in the trees most of the time so the wind wasn’t really a factor at that point. Once we reached the cairn at the pass, things changed. It was windy and because of that the temperature was much cooler. Still, I was prepared and threw on an extra layer of pants. I will say this right now…lack of clothing was not a factor in what happened to me. We continued up through the last bit of forest and hit the scree slope that led to the summit. It looked a little daunting to me, being my first real winter hike and all, but being with someone whos ability and knowledge I trusted made me feel safe enough that I figured I would be ok. I totally would have been if I didn’t let my mind get the best of me.

We started our way up the mountain and we both noticed how loose the snow was on top of the rock. Getting any sort of footing was a bit tricky and we had to use our hands to help us up the slippery slope. I figured that was no biggie, and I just followed Shae’s footing which helped me a lot. So getting up wasn’t really a problem although there were a few spots that scared me a tiny bit.

We reached the top and the view was just gorgeous. There were peaks for as far as the eye could see! It was pretty windy and cold so we decided to just hang out for a short time and then head back down. I didn’t take many photos on this hike, but now thinking back I wish I did.

As soon as we started making our way down, I felt my fear creeping up on me. After feeling my foot slip one too many times and envisioning myself flying down that mountain and not being able to stop, the fear set in full force. I’m a big believer that fear can be a good thing and it exists to keep you alive, but sometimes it can be crippling. For some reason, looking down that peak just freaked me right out. With those conditions I should have had poles. 100%. I can admit when I’m wrong and that day I made the biggest error on a mountain that I’ve ever made. I feel silly now when I think about it, but hey, everyone makes mistakes! Live and learn.

So as I was watching Shae using a 3-point touch system to get down, I figured hey, a five point system would be even better, right? Wrong. I decided to scoot down that entire mountainside on my butt. Boy was that a bad idea. I want to say with how carefully I was going down the mountain and how scared I was, it probably took me a good hour to get down that slope. That means I was in the cold, scraping my butt on hard snow and sharp rocks for one hour straight! I couldn’t feel any of this on my rear end after a little while and I just figured it was my adrenaline. Wrong again.

After picturing all the different ways I could get injured or worse, I eventually scooted my way down back to the tree line. I can’t even begin to explain the feeling of pure joy and happiness I felt to get off that slope. We made our way back through the pass and down to the vehicle and drove home.

This is where things got interesting. This may be too much information, but I got home and went into the washroom, started the shower, stripped down, then went to grab my towel and PJ’s when my husband who was sitting in the living room went “OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!” I had no idea what he was talking about and being the type of person who gets scared of injuries and things like that, I started crying and said, “What do you mean?! Don’t react like that!” All Cam said was “YOUR ASS!!!” So I went and looked at it. Let’s just say that what I saw made my blood run cold, literally and figuratively.

Staring back at me were two welted, purple, and red butt cheeks. When I say purple and red I mean deep purple and red. In the words of my husband, it looked like I got “spanked by the mountain.” This caused me to panic a bit but for some reason I just thought it was bruising from all of the scooting I did. I ran a hot bath, sat in it, and felt sick to my stomach. After overthinking like I usually do, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to go to emergency and get it looked at, but the nurse that I spoke with over the phone said that it was most likely just bruising and to put an ice pack on it for 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. BAD IDEA. I did that and went to bed hoping to wake up and everything would be ok.

The next morning I woke up and well, I woke up to tons of huge…HUGE…blisters. I know this is a horrible mental picture but I am just being totally honest. That made both my husband and I realize that this was far more than just trauma. So it was off to emergency we went.   I got there and they took my vitals, and I don’t know if it was anything to do with how nervous I was or if it was actually because of the injury, but my heartbeat was racing so they sent me right in, gave me a Tetanus shot, and hooked me up to an IV. The nurses had me get into a gown and show them my wound, and their reactions weren’t something that made a person feel any better about the situation. One lady even said it was the worst frostbite she had seen in 22 years of working as a nurse! So after having almost every nurse in the unit take a look at my backside plus the doctor (who was young, male, and extremely good looking to make matters worse) had a good look at my butt, it was decided that what I had was “bilateral second degree frostbite and trauma.” The frostbite was actually from the contact on the snow that I had on the way down the mountain the whole time, rather than the actual air or temperature. According to the Dr. I would have been fine had I had kept my rear end up and off of the snow. I looked at both of the pairs of pants I was wearing that day and they both had the same scratch marks that my bum had. Needless to say I felt pretty stupid haha.

I know this has been yet another novel length blog post, so I will just cut it short now. After this I had to go back to the hospital and get dressing changes on my bum every other day for nearly a month straight. I couldn’t sit, go to the bathroom, or do much of anything for that entire time. I spent my birthday in emergency, Christmas at my Mom’s lying on the couch attempting to eat my turkey dinner on my stomach, and New Years also on the couch. My husband was nice enough to change my dressing a few times once it started to heal up, and that was an experience within itself. I can honestly say that as much as this all sucked, I kept myself in good humour throughout it, and I was happy that my butt was healed enough to sit once school started again in January. My butt is completely healed now, thank goodness.

Moral of the story…stay within your limits and always be prepared with the proper gear!!!

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  1. We slid down on the snow for about 20 minutes with no ill affects though maybe moving so fast helped and air temperature was at least +10. Good cautionary tale though. Doesn’t say if you had crampons/ice cleates as they can help a lot.

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