Big bump on the road to an Ironman

2 years later and a long backpack trip

I ruptured my left AT on July 27, 2009, ultimately had four surgeries the last of which was May 20, 2010. Last Thursday my 20 year old son and I began a 39.4 mile backpack trip from the East Fork Boulder River south of Big Timber, MT through the Beartooth Absaroka Wilderness and into Yellowstone National Park, ending at the Slough Creek Campground. It was a hard trip that included, we think, a total of seven water crossings without benefit of bridges, several miles of trail that required scrambling over and around dozens of trees that were blown down during a serious windstorm last winter and mosquitoes that were worse than we encountered in Alaska when we went there. But the views were spectacular and the solitude was amazing. We didn’t see a single person for two days. Even though we went through country noted for a very healthy grizzly bear population we saw only two black bears, from behind as they ran away from us. We saw lots of grizzly scat including some that was only a few hours old since it still had flies on it. We did see a badger and a red fox very close up as well as a lot of frogs in one area, some osprey and a few deer. No elk or bison. We also saw lots of trout since we fly fished along Slough Creek. It was truly the trip of a lifetime and even though my left leg is not nearly as strong as it was before the ATR, we managed a pretty good pace, about 2.3 miles per hour carrying backpacks. I was prepared with Valium and Percodan just in case I needed some pain management but it was never necessary.
We got to the campground on Monday where we met my wife, also his mother. We celebrated by having dinner at the Roosevelt Lodge where I consumed a Deschutes Black Butte Porter and a half-pound elk burger with bacon and blue cheese. My son consumed a couple of cokes and an identical burger. The food was actually quite good there.  Then we headed back to the campground for the night and left the following morning to go get my car and return home to Billings, MT.

We took the photo by balancing the camera on a rock at the top of the drainage divide between Slough Creek and East Fork Boulder River, just about 10 miles into the trip.  My son takes after his maternal grandfather in the height department.  And in case you’re wondering what that black thing is across my chest, that is my bear spray in case we had a confrontation.  My son also has one right behind his right hand.


More surgery needed

At least it isn’t for my AT. I have osteoarthritis in both thumbs, at the metacarpophalangeal joint, that’s the second joint from the tip. The left is much worse than the right. Last night on an easy group bike ride, I had significant pain and that has actually kept me off my bike a lot this year. The usual procedure is to fuse the joint at a 20-30 degree angle using wire or screws. You have to wear a cast for about 6 weeks. I was hoping to get this done on the left hand so I will be back to normal when ski season starts. Surgery was actually scheduled for yesterday, but after finding out the surgeon uses one of the two absorbable sutures that I will not allow in my body, and is unwilling to use anything else, I canceled it. I have an appointment with the only other hand surgeon in town on July 7. In the meantime I’ve talked with his nurse and told her about the suture materials I won’t allow. She said she would talk with him and let me know what he says. If he won’t use something other than those, there’s no reason to meet with him. I’ve had cortizone injections and the first time it was marginally helpful, but it was a couple of weeks before I ruptured my AT so using crutches didn’t help any. The second cortizone injection did seem to help but the last one didn’t. NSAIDs don’t do much good. Anybody know anything about this surgery? For anyone interested, the suture materials are Panacryl and Vicryl.

End of season tree skiing stoke

Red Lodge Mountain closes this Sunday, April 10, so this is just about it.  Conditions have deteriorated but Monday we did have some fresh snow that was pretty good skiing.  So I headed for some tree runs.  On a goofy note, I tried snowboarding for the first time ever last Friday.  I cannot believe how many times I fell, mostly backwards but twice face first downhill.  One or both of those falls has given me what is at least a bruised rib and possibly even cracked.  On Saturday I tried it again and managed two runs on our magic carpet without falling.  Enough for this year, but I will be back at it again next year so I can learn enough to also handle first time snowboard lessons.

But, here’s the videos.  The first is too short for music, couldn’t find any tunes that were only 30 seconds.

Big Fred from GERRY RHOADES on Vimeo.

Lynn’s Run from GERRY RHOADES on Vimeo.

Little Forest from GERRY RHOADES on Vimeo.

So here’s another one

Red Lodge Mountain got 17″ during the day on Tuesday so I told my nominal boss I would not be in yesterday and went to enjoy the fresh snow. It was a good day to get a sunburn. I was beat by 1:30 so I called it an epic day and headed home. Tomorrow and Saturday are my regular teaching days so I’ll be back up there for a couple more days. There’s a 50% chance of more snow starting tonight through Saturday. It looks like our season will once again end with a bang.

Upper Continental and Boomerang from GERRY RHOADES on Vimeo.

One more ski video

And possibly the last for the season since April 10 is the final day and the weather is pretty warm here.  At least it’s a pretty good video.  This is Winchester , a black diamond run, two days after a 10 inch snowfall but the first day the run was open, to anyone except patrol.  And there is some significance to the music; namely that skiing this kind of stuff is my drug of choice.  If you wonder why I don’t head right into the untracked powder it’s because I know what’s under it and I don’t feel like destroying the bases on my skis.  And the three guys with red coats are also instructors.

And a hint if the video is jerky when you watch it.  Just let it finish and then click play again.  Once it’s completely buffered it will play smoothly.

A good day teaching

Today was one of my regular teaching days and it was a really good day, because my student learned and so did I.  If you don’t want to read something long, better exit now.

My student was an 8 y.o. female who had taken a lesson at our ski area a year ago. She said she sort of learned to stop in the lesson but never learned about turning. After the lesson her mother took her up the beginner chairlift and things really headed south for her. I should note that her previous instructor no longer teaches at our area. She was hesitant and frightened. We went up the Magic Carpet and at the top she was very frightened, but after a bit of discussion she did start to ski toward me in a wedge. The first run was not pretty and took a while, but she did not fall down. After getting to the bottom she commented that she had been worried about nothing and was ready to go again. After about an hour she was stopping and turning without difficulty and I told her she was ready to go up the beginner chairlift. She clouded up and informed me that she would never ever ride any chairlift. We spent the rest of the lesson skiing on the Magic Carpet and she genuinely seemed to have a good time, based on the amount of giggling she was doing. She came back for the afternoon lesson but instead of being the only one in her group she was one of 5, aged 7 to 12. Another instructor and I decided we needed to take them up the beginner chairlift so we could more easily evaluate their skiing to decide if and/or how we needed to split them up. This is how and where we normally decide if we will split up a group based on ability. As soon as she learned we were going up the chairlift she started crying and saying she didn’t want to go and wouldn’t go. Her mother tried to talk to her and told me to go with the others while she talked with her daughter. We rode the chairlift, had the students ski and determined that the group, as it was, could be done without a split. We skied back down to the chair lift and there was mom and my morning student still with tears in her eyes saying she didn’t want to ride the chairlift because she was afraid. Mom sent her with me and followed us. She was really scared and told me she was afraid of heights. She cried for the entire chairlift ride. At the top she got scared because of a very short steeper pitch soon after getting off the chair and asked “You don’t expect me to ski that do you?” I told very calmly that was just what I expected of her and that I knew she could do it. She finally started moving very slowly in a giant wedge and said she would not go any faster than that. She increased her speed after that because the run flattened out quite a lot. She stopped crying and was soon skiing just like she did in the morning near the end of the lesson. We stopped after about 300 yards and she kept looking back for her mother who was some distance back. I told her that I thought it was time for her mom to go ski somewhere else and she yelled at her mom to “Go away.” Then she looked at me and said “This wasn’t really so hard after all. I bet I could do this all by myself.” She followed me down the run and back to the chairlift. She got on without hesitation and by the end of our second run was laughing and giggling and wanting to race, but I had to race backwards on one ski. We had a delightful time and her mother was ecstatic at the end of lesson. I explained to her mom that she needed to let her ski where she wanted to ski and absolutely not take her on any lift or run that she didn’t want to do because she could easily melt down and be right back where we were at the beginning of the morning lesson. Her mom agreed and hopefully the girl’s dad won’t decide that he knows best.  If I was teaching at some high end resort like Sun Valley or Aspen or Whistler, I probably would have been given a pretty significant tip, like $50-100.  As it was there was no tip but that’s OK.  Those people don’t come to our ski area and I don’t do this to earn a lot of money.  I do it because I like teaching people to ski and creating happy memories for them when I can.

I should mention that I am not a person noted for having a lot of patience. She definitely taxed my patience but having recently read a book entitled A Conversation with Fear by Mermer Blakeslee, I knew that no matter how irrational her fears are in reality, they are very real for her and that I would not accomplish anything, except making both of us miserable, by denying something that was real to her.  I tried to relate to her by admitting that are a couple of runs there that I have never skied because they scare me, because they are very steep and very narrow.  I think it helped.

More ski videos

Three more ski videos for the skiers out there who need some vicarious entertainment. The short one without music was from a run I did down a black chute on a pair of Blizzard Bushwacker skis. These are 2011-12 skis and I have to say they are really impressive. For the gearheads they have early rise tip and tail and handled everything I threw at them quite easily: powder, crud, bumps and groomers. If they were twin tips I would be buying a pair. Continental is just your standard black run: bumps, some powder and occasional thin cover. Lobo is the same kind of run except longer, double black, more fun, not always open and it was the first time I’ve ever skied it. I didn’t start at the top because I was too lazy to go back to the base and take the triple chair to where I could access the run from the beginning. The skier I pass on this run turned out to be someone I know. One thing is very apparent from these videos and that is that Red Lodge Mountain is not a crowded ski area.

Adding Photos from Your Computer

underwater shot

underwater shot

Taken by my son when we were scuba diving in Bonaire a few years ago.

This is one way to add photos to a post, there seem to be others but this is how I do it.
Go to your dashboard. On the left side under “Media” click “Add New.”
Select the photo from your computer and upload it.
After the photo is uploaded you can add a caption and description and click “Save Changes.”
Go to the dashboard and under “Posts” select “Add New.”
When the blank form comes up for adding a new post, click on the little round thing next to “Add media:” Then select “Media Library.”
Click on the “Show” associated with the photo you want to use.
Select the size you want the image to be, the one above is medium, mess around with the positioning of the photo and when finished click on “Insert into Post.”   If you’re working on the “Visual” tab the image will appear, if you are working on the HTML tab the HTML code for the image will appear.

Another ski video

This one was taken while skiing a blue run called Barriers.  Barriers is traditionally not groomed and develops into a really nice bump run with a fairly steep section at the top followed by maybe 100-150 yards of no bumps and then continuous bumps at a moderate pitch for at least one mile, possibly longer.  This is our usual run for introducing students to bumps, because of the reduced pitch in the second bump section.  The video only includes about the upper half of Barriers.

My first ski video

I bought a GoPro Hero HD video camera and a helmet mount for it and have been playing with it recently when I didn’t have students.  I have absolutely no clue how I can embed it here so if you want to watch a 4:52 ski video taken from my point of view, go to If nothing else the sound track is good.