SirBC wrote:I have to admit that spraining an ankle/breaking a leg while off-trail "in the middle of nowhere" is one my fears. I've never had a sprained ankle but I'd assumed that it would be next to impossible to get over/down a pass without the use of one leg. Were you able to bear any weight at all on your injured leg?
I was able to bear weight, but not without shooting pain, so when I backpacked out of base camp I used my dad's walking stick to take most of the weight off. The pain was bad starting off then I got used to it, but I didn't want to stop and have to deal with the "start up" again so I hiked 5 miles out to the car without stopping (took 2 hrs). Far more difficult was the off trail escape in the beginning where I didn't have a walking stick (between the point of injury and my basecamp). I had to initially climb a steep snow slope that I would have normally wanted an ice axe for (slip would have had disastrous consequences) and I couldn't support enough weight with the bad foot to kick steps, so I sort of hand carved steps, which took a very long time and led to very cold hands. That by far the hardest part of the hike out. At the top of the snow slope was a class 3 move to get to class 2 talus boulders. For the class 3 I resorted to a lot of upper body strength stuff so as to avoid any push offs from the bad foot side. Once on the boulders I crab walked and crawled. When I got to mellower off trail stuff I more or less hopped on one leg and took advantage of rocks and vegetation to get extra support. I was carrying a moderately heavy daypack because it had my entire fishing arsenal in it as well as water, trail snacks, foul weather gear (had been raining pretty hard when I got to the the destination). For the backpack from basecamp I did not lighten my pack because I didn't want to overburden my dad. As it was my dad was pretty uncomfortable without his cherished walking stick and I arrived 10 to 20 minutes ahead of him at the car.
I have also suffered a moderately bad knee hyperextension 7 miles from the car. I was about 1 mile off trail when I did that, but I can't say I my mobility was too badly compromised. The knee was a bit shaky and loose, but I could still bear weight on it without too much additional pain. That was a reasonably bad knee injury because the after effects lasted for years (was the beginning of the decline of my left knee which had been the "strong" knee up to that point).
One injury I had in the backcountry that had me a bit concerned at the time was when I broke (hairline) two fingers on my left hand when I did a klutzy fall while fishing Big Harriet Lake. My concern was that the swelling of my ring finger (one of the broken ones) would cause circulation to get cutoff at my wedding ring and I worried about losing the finger. I considered quitting the trip and heading back but reasoned that since it was a full day or more of hiking to get out that whatever bad thing might happen to that finger would happen anyway, so we decided to complete the trip (3.5 more days) which turned out to be a very good one. Hands are not as crucial to getting around as feet and legs are, but I was a bit uncomfortable (mentally, not physically) when I had to go some class 3 one handed a day later.
Regarding medicinal brandy, the time-honored "more miles to the gallon" backcountry alcohol--151--would be great emergency fire starter, to be sure (note that all brands of 151 always comes with "flammable" on its label). Of course I never started a campfire with 151 because I didn't want to waste the 151 supply but I did ignite it for cooking purposes doing flambee with trout (very tasty). I can say that it indeed ignites very readily.