AURORA — The Colorado Springs man who lost both of his legs to frostbite after climbing Mt. Shavano in Chaffee County last month will be discharged from the hospital on Thursday.
Nick Noland, 34, was hiking the 14,232’ mountain three weeks ago near Salida when he accidentally drifted off trail on his way back down from the summit.
“Thinking about it now and reflecting, I think I made a 20 second mistake,” Noland said.
Noland said had he kept walking for another 20 seconds, he likely would have figured out where the correct trail was.
“About an hour and a half after heading down the summit I called my dad and said, ‘I don’t really know where I am and I don’t know where the trail is’,” Noland explained.
Noland had enough battery power left on his phone to make the call to his dad. His father reached out to a search and rescue team to assist.
The search and rescue team called Noland and asked for his coordinates. Noland provided rescuers with his exact location.
Search and rescue members asked Noland to stay put, but the climber said he was still at an elevation of more than 13,000′ and it was far too cold to stay there. So, instead of standing still and waiting for rescuers to arrive, Noland continued to descend.
“It was so cold and the wind was going as fast as it had been,” Noland explained. “I had no gloves on [and] my nose was getting really cold and my face was in a lot of pain”.
The frigid temperatures riddled Noland’s feet with frostbite.
When he was transported to UCHealth in Aurora, doctors ended up having to amputate both of his legs.
“I was thinking I’d lose a toe or two at worst,” Noland said of the experience. “By the time it was time for me to get into surgery I was unconscious”.
As Noland now learns to live his new life without legs, the 34-year-old said his experience on Mt. Shavano inspired him to confront a personal issue he’s been struggling with since the age of 21: alcoholism.
“It had come to a point where I was using it to cope with a lot of things,” Noland said. “This experience has helped me reconsider [them]”.
When Noland leaves UCHealth’s Burn and Frostbite Center on Thursday, he plans to check into a rehabilitation facility in the metro area.
“I just don’t want to waste my time anymore,” Noland said.