2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – October 2012

Profiles In (Dis)Courage: Justin Harris

Broken, but not beaten, four backcountry travelers tap unexpected reserves to overcome horrific injuries.

by: Jason Stevenson

Justin Harris (photo by Mike Schirf)
Justin Harris (photo by Mike Schirf)
Side x-ray of Harris' leg
Side x-ray of Harris' leg

Justin Harris, 40

Accident Canyoneering fall
Injuries Spiral tibia fracture and compartment syndrome

Justin Harris and his younger brother Jeremy were prepared for the 80-foot rappels and chest-high pools they’d encounter on the seven-hour descent of Chute Canyon in Utah’s San Rafael Swell. But when the Parowan, Utah, resident slipped on a straightforward 12-foot drop and shattered his left leg below the knee, everything changed. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get out of that canyon,” he says, recalling the 2003 incident.

Temperatures plunged to 9°F overnight as Jeremy hiked alone to summon help, a five-hour trip that took more than 22 because he missed a turn. Rescuers didn’t reach Harris until a day and a half after the accident. By that time, his kidneys were shutting down, and swelling in his leg had cut off circulation to his foot. “I was mentally prepared for another day [in the canyon], but things with my body were serious. I wasn’t sure I’d live until I heard the rescuers’ voices,” recalls Harris.

Six weeks later, he and his doctors decided to amputate. His left tibia had broken in so many places that he couldn’t overcome the swelling and infection. After a long, uncertain, and painful wait, “it was a relief to let my leg go and start healing,” says Harris. Seven months after surgery, he returned to coaching his son’s football team atop a $22,000 titanium and carbon fiber prosthetic. He has since skied, hiked, and even scrambled to the top of Zion’s Angels Landing. “I have a greater respect for the outdoors,” he says. “I’ve scaled back on the extremes, but my injury has challenged me to do more and stay strong.”

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Your favorite backpacking photo
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: Echo
Trailhead Register
Stick is fine
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: JasonG75

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions