It was cold. The air carried no scent, ice squeaked under our boots, and every little leaf and twig crinkled and snapped as we walked over it. But this was louder than that. Much louder. Neither Jon nor I saw it actually happen, but when I found Will he was mostly upside down between a boulder and tree. The trail at that point was elevated by some rocks and bordered by pines that grew from the forrest floor some distance below.
After a bit of struggle we removed Will’s 60 pound pack, got him upright, and back to the trail. He had no cuts, and his head didn’t show any signs of injury, but his left arm was about eight inches longer than his right, and he couldn’t move it. More significantly, he was now very much disabled on top of a mountain in November. The sun and temperatures were falling and all of us were at risk of hypothermia if we didn’t act quickly.
I had my iPhone, and it had a signal. I looked up “fix dislocated shoulder” and quickly read the WikiHow article that appeared on top. I passed it on to Jon for a second opinion, and he read it out loud for us all. Will choked on the line “this will not be a comfortable experience, but do not give in to the pain.” And I choked on it a few moments later when I performed the procedure as outlined and felt and heard the snapping like a popsicle stick bent too far. Thankfully, the line “when the shoulder pops back into its joint, relief will come immediately” was true.
We were prepared for a winter night, but not Will’s dislocated shoulder. The iPhone gave us access to the wealth of knowledge available on the web, and that helped us deal with Will’s injury on our own
. It was a cold night, and a painful one for Will, but we survived.
1: I often carry my iPhone on hikes, but what might we have done without it? If we had just a regular phone we might have called emergency services, who would have likely dispatched people to climb the mountain to rescue Will. Nobody should be hiking a steep, dark, icy trail. And if we didn’t have any phone? We would have worked from memory, which was informed more by Lethal Weapon than real medical facts. Who knows what harm we might have done to the guy?