Ouch! Stookesberry Blows Shoulder on Old Man’s Creek

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Stookesberry's blown shoulder... (Photo courtesy)

It was an aptly named creek for it to happen.

After running more than 130 first descents all around the world, adventure kayaking pioneer Ben Stookesberry, who turns 42 this August, had a brush with mortality, blowing out his shoulder just a half mile from the finish line out on a first descent of Idaho/Montana’s Old Man’ Creek, which dumps into the Lochsa just below Pipeline.

After estimating that the run drops about 3,000 feet in 10 miles, Stookesberry — who is sponsored by Eddie Bauer, Kokatat, Werner and more — was making the first descent in June with fellow paddling pioneer Frank Preston. In one of the run’s Class V rapids, he flipped and hit a rock with his shoulder, dislocating it mid-run. Preston ran rescue and reset the shoulder, and Stookesberry is now recovering.

Stookesberry’s Shoulder Mishap In His Own Words:

“Old Man’s Creek is the big trib to the Lochsa that enters just downstream of Pipeline. It has tempted generations of paddlers, and a few have hiked up and paddled bits of the final mile. The whole run from Old Man’s Meadow to the confluence is 10 miles long and drops 3000 feet.

Doug Ammons gave it a go, in the 90’s, supposedly broke his boat, and hiked out. There is a trail to the put-in and the numbers are absurd. First consider the hike into the Middle Kings: 2800 feet of climb and 3200 feet of descent over 12 miles. The shortest route we could figure was 16 miles, with 6800 feet of vertical climb over 2 passes and back down into a remote basin surrounded by high alpine peaks.

Denali Ranger Frank Preston and I were a half -mile from the confluence finish line in heavy boat-scout mode on day 4 when I flipped and took a rock shot to the shoulder. I rolled immediately with my left dislocated but was able to secure shore with my right in the middle of non stop class V. Frank was out of his boat, and scrambled to dry dock me. It took a half hour to reduce the shoulder employing various techniques.

From there I drug my boat with Frank’s help,  a gnarly, steep, exposed, three-hour portage to the Lochsa and a few gimpy paddle strokes across the Lochsa to Highway 12, 200 meters downstream of Pipeline.

In six days I received an MRI and X-ray that revealed a “Fracture of Greater Tuberosity” with minimal displacement. If the bone heals in six weeks I could be back to paddling in three months …. unless there is some insidious soft tissue damage.”