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Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Nez Perce

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Nez Perce—On August 4, Tim Bond (24) and Sally Bond (23), in conjunction with Fritz Ermarth (19), Mike Ermarth (16), and Julie Peterson (30), were climbing the East Ridge of Nez Perce. Two other parties were also on the ridge that day, one preceding the above party and one trailing. The weather and climbing conditions were excellent.

About 200 feet directly above and west of the first notch, which separates the East Peak and the East Summit, the party separated. Tim and Sally following a broad down-sloping ledge around to the left (south) of the ridge crest while Fritz, Mike, and Julie continued upward along the crest toward the summit of the East Summit.

After climbing up the broad ledge to its termination, Tim attempted a very severe and exposed lead that went upward and around a corner onto the sheer, overhanging south face of the East Summit. He was 15 to 20 feet above and to the left of Sally. He had driven one angle piton for safety and was rounding the comer when his friction holds apparently failed. His fall was stopped a short distance below the ledge on which Sally was stationed.

Tim made one effort, which failed, to pull himself upon the ledge. Then, in a state of delirium, he asked to be lowered. Sally, who was thrown and pinned against the wall by the force of the fall, complied by lowering him about 20 feet. Nearly a half hour was consumed before she could extricate herself and anchor the belay rope to a boulder. Undoubtedly, Tim had succumbed within a few minutes after the fall from serious internal injuries in addition to a fractured skull.

At 12:45 p.m. when approximately 150 feet from the top of the East Summit, Fritz heard Sally calling for help. The yells were apparently coming from the notch between the East Summit and the true summit, but upon investigating that possibility, there was nothing to be seen of the two climbers. After some reconnoitering, Fritz gained a vantage point where he could look down upon the ledge that Tim and Sally had followed. There at the termination of the ledge some 200 feet below, he spotted Sally and managed to survey the situation. Tim had suffered a fall and was hanging suspended under an overhang some 25 feet below Sally.

Contact was made with the trailing party which had just descended into the first notch, and several members of both parties arrived at the scene of the accident at approximately 2:00 p.m. Two climbers were immediately dispatched to the valley to report the accident. They arrived at Jenny Lake Ranger Station at 4:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, a climber in prusik slings had been lowered down to Tim. At approximately 3:00 p.m. it was determined that the accident had been fatal. This was fully 2½ hours after the accident had occurred.

During the night Tim’s body slipped an additional 50-60 feet but was caught when the belay rope snarled at the piton. The evacuation, which was effected under hazardous rockfall conditions, included lowering the body nearly 500 feet down the overhanging south wall of the East Summit. A helicopter landing at the base of the North Face of Shadow Peak completed the evacuation with considerable reduction in risk to rescuers.

Source: James M. Langford, Park Ranger, and H. L. Bill, Superintendent, G.T.N.P.

Analysis: Tim and Sally Bond had been following a rather ambitious climbing schedule throughout the summer. Tim had climbed the North Face of the Grand Teton the day before, arriving at the summit at 4:30 p.m. The Nez Perce climb was to include a traverse to the South Teton, a truly arduous feat under any condition. His reason for separating from the rest of the party and taking the broad ledge on the south side of the East Summit is not clearly evident. The ledge, although appearing to be a highway to the second notch, is definitely off-route. His judgment in trying to force a route from the termination of the ledge was clearly in error. Although he may have been equal to the task, it is doubtful whether Sally could have followed safely.

The fact that Sally was not anchored, in addition to the tremendous difference in their size and weight, probably contributed to her utter helplessness in aiding him after the fall.

A hard hat might have prevented the head injuries in this case, although death might have resulted from the serious internal hemorrhages.