Peak(s):  Mt. Ouray  -  13,971 feet
Date Posted:  06/25/2019
Modified:  06/26/2019
Date Climbed:   06/16/2019
Author:  Maverick6981
Additional Members:   Walkertexasranger57, cloudkicker
 Mt. Ouray - Return to the High Peaks   

Mt. Ouray - Return to the High Peaks

It has been quite some time since I have been able to post up a trip report. I have also put together a video trip report that is posted at the end of this report as well. Constructive feedback is welcome!

The Backstory

Last year I was moving along at a steady pace in my 14er journey. It was great getting out there for some 14ers and Centennials with some new folks and I was feeling really good about my progress. Then, in August, I suffered a pretty bad knee injury while playing volleyball. After a few days of the pain and swelling not improving, I decided it was time to get it looked at by a professional. It turns out I tore my ACL...again. I tore my right ACL back in 2012 while playing football. Being a 23 year old kid, I stopped going to physical therapy after a few months. I never regained full range of motion from that original surgery due to a combination of not following through with PT and also, due to what I learned from the new surgeon, misplacement of the graft from the original surgeon. I made sure to do my research this time around. I looked around and read reviews on every orthopedic surgeon in Denver and Boulder I could find and decided that I would place my trust in the lead orthopedic surgeon for a few of the professional sports teams here in Colorado. After going through the X-rays, MRI's, etc, he came back to me and said the following:

"We're going to do this right this time around. I could reuse the tunnels drilled from the original surgery for the graft in this surgery but I would be doing you a disservice. So this is going to take two surgeries to fix."

"TWO!?" I asked. Immediately I recognized that my hiking season was over due to, what was supposed to be, a fun pickup game of volleyball.

He grabbed my file and showed me the scans and explained - "The original tunnels drilled in the first surgery from back in 2012 are at too steep of an angle, and they expanded over time. We need to address why the first surgery was a failure and be sure to not make the same mistakes again. Now, this is the second surgery on your ACL, so this is not an ACL reconstruction (which is I guess the first surgery after a torn ACL), it is what we call an ACL revision surgery. So what we are going to do is to do a bone graft to fill in those original tunnels. That will take 3 months to heal before we can do the actual graft surgery. What this allows us to do is to get this surgery back as close as we can to an ACL reconstruction surgery. Also, your femoral bone is angled slightly more forward than the average person. That's not a good thing or a bad thing. It just is what it is. It doesn't help you or hinder you in any way. But it takes a lot of precision to make sure the graft gets back far enough to not hinder range of motion in the long term. Next we need to discuss which type of graft we want to use for this surgery."

*I opted to use a cadaver graft in my original surgery from 2012 because I did no research into which graft tends to have a higher success rate long term.

After discussing the various options, we decided to use a hamstring autograft for this surgery. My initial concern was, "What does this mean long term? It seems to be counter intuitive to take something from a healthy part of my body and move it to an unhealthy part of my body and now I have two unhealthy parts of my body." He understood my concern but alleviated my worry by informing me that in most cases, the hamstring can regenerate after surgery. He did make it clear that this would increase my recovery period by another few months since we would have to address not only my knee, but the weaknesses caused from taking the graft from my own hamstring.

Stuck in bed post-op. I read a lot of books.

We scheduled the bone graft surgery in August. That went just fine without any issues. But I still had to hobble around for 3 months until I got the graft surgery at the very end of November. Physical therapy started in mid-December and the full recovery process is 9-12 months. For somebody who was consistently getting out every weekend, this proved to be quite a challenge for finding ways to occupy my time. Without going into all of the fine details, everything went according to plan in both surgeries and my range of motion is now BETTER than my healthy leg! I am about 6.5 months post-op and nearing the final stage of my recovery which is where we add in all of the plyometrics and more demanding exercises. I was cleared for hiking a few weeks ago by my physical therapist! Which leads us to centennial 13er - Mount Ouray!

The Hike

I had done a few shorter hikes in the weeks leading up to this trip. I got out for some light hiking around Mt. Falcon, went back and revisited good ole' Mt. Sniktau, then onto bicentennial Square Top. After reaching out to my hiking partner Kit (Cloudkicker), we talked about a few different options that fit the mileage and gain I felt comfortable with. We ended up deciding on the West Ridge of Mt. Ouray which is approximately 6 miles and 3,275' of elevation gain. This was by far the most amount of gain I would have attempted since my injury last August. My knee had felt stable and solid during my last few hikes so I felt comfortable going for more gain. The mileage has not been an issue so much as descending a mountain.

We met up at a park and ride off 285 and I threw my gear in Kit's car and we set off for Marshall Pass. Once we started making our way up the road, we came across two bighorn sheep. We stopped and let them do their thing and continued after they moved on.

Always a treat when we get to see these guys.

The road was completely fine all the way up to the normal parking area. We made our way up to the little cabin and found it unoccupied so we setup camp there for the night. Our original plan was to shoot for a 3-4am start to give me ample time to rest and take care of my knee if needed. Our other friend and hiking buddy Walker was also coming from Gunnison to join us in our hike the following morning. After getting everything setup, we had a lot of time to hang out and catch up. There was an awesome sunset so we walked back down to the road from the cabin so Kit could take some pictures with his new camera.

Look at those colors!
Colorado always delivers.
The moon joined the party too.

We got on the trail at 4am and set off into the dark. Most of the trail leading up to the ridge was uneventful. 99% of the snow was completely avoidable in treeline. There were some downed trees you had to navigate around, but for the most part, there's nothing worth mentioning here.

Interesting colors in the early morning.
I was obsessed with how the moon looked as it began to disappear.

There was one small slope covered in snow that was unavoidable, but if you went to the climbers left, there was a shorter section to navigate before reaching dry land on the other side.

Walker capturing the morning colors over the Sangres.
Looking over at the majority of our route. That last section up to the summit is steep!
Kit taking in some views on the ridge.
Views from the ridge.
Summit views.
More summit views.

Video Trip Report


I have come to appreciate the value that contrast can bring to life. Until you experience opposing ends of a spectrum, you’ll never have enough context to define your physical and mental boundaries. I’ve noticed that those who are the most grounded seem to have experienced the most uncertainty. It has been almost a full year since I tore my ACL while playing volleyball. Losing the physical ability to pursue my mountain goals over the past year has led to a greater level of awareness. It has forced me to understand my intentions behind pursuing mountain climbing. Although this injury didn’t occur in the backcountry, it led me to examine how I would have handled things if it did. I eventually came to the conclusion that I desire longevity in this endeavor. This meant addressing ignorance through understanding risk tolerance, trip planning, and preparation. “Experience” can mean so many different things. It could mean the amount of times you’ve stood on the summit. It could mean knowing what kind of gear you need for the planned route or understanding the potential impact certain weather could have on conditions. But I think that experience is only one part of the puzzle. Experience is the stepping stone to wisdom. In my opinion, wisdom appears to be the culmination of a balanced perspective created through experiencing contrast and gaining self-awareness.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Hope to see you out on the trails! Happy climbing.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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