American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Mt. Moran

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1961

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Mt. Moran—On August 25, Judy Grove (20), Pat Van Elton (20), and Barbara Nelson (20) all seasonally employed by the Grand Teton Lodge Company, rowed across Leigh Lake in a borrowed boat and set off up the eastern slopes of Mount Moran. They followed the steep bouldery gully of the stream descending from Falling Ice Glacier and continued up the wooded ridge to the left of this gully to a point just short of the West Horn. This constitutes the usual approach to the CMC Route on the mountain.

Apparently the destination of the girls was the excellent camping spot among the large trees high on this ridge crest. However, instead of being content to stop here, they scrambled another 300 to 400 feet on up the talus toward the col between the West Horn of Mount Moran and Drizzlepuss, a large pinnacle between the West Horn and the main east face of Mount Moran.

Here Judy Grove, against the advice of her friends, climbed upward out to the right on a down sloping ledge. At a point some 150 feet above her companions, she sensed the insecurity of her position and decided to start back down. In the act of turning around she slipped and was catapulted into a 120-foot tumbling fall which contained one 50-foot vertical drop. This occurred at 1:00 p.m.

After determining to some extent the nature of Judy’s injuries, Barbara Nelson went down with word of the accident, leaving Pat Van Elten to tend the injured. In the meantime, two climbers descending from a climb of Mount Moran, came upon the scene and made Miss Grove fairly comfortable with a sleeping bag and plenty of warm clothing.

News of the accident was received at Jenny Lake Ranger Station by 4:00 p.m. Within four hours two members of the Park rescue team, Pete Sinclair, and Dave Dornan, were at the scene with additional sleeping bags, food, and first-aid equipment. By 10:30 p.m. an additional eight men had arrived.

Because of the ruggedness of the terrain, the route finding problem involved, and the concern for the safety of the entire party, it was decided not to begin carry-out until daylight.

The descent was underway by 6:00 a.m. the next morning. A relief team of six men, led by Seasonal Ranger Ron Trussell, joined the first team early in the descent and the carry-out was completed in a routine fashion at 11:00 a.m. Miss Grove, despite two broken legs, a cracked rib cartilage, and numerous cuts and bruises, remained rather congenial throughout the entire ordeal.

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

Analysis: This was an unregistered climb. The girls were perfectly aware of the Park regulation governing climbing in the Park. They were undoubtedly strong hikers and were probably well within their abilities on the terrain they had covered previous to the accident. However, the injured girl did not express sound judgment in choosing to venture out onto the rockface above the talus alone. Although her desire to “get in some rock-climbing” may have been commendable, the circumstances at the time were not such that she should have fulfilled that desire, especially against the advice of her companions.

The fall she suffered was truly a classic one, and it is unbelievable that her injuries were not more severe. The fact that she managed to maintain a complete state of relaxation during the fall undoubtedly saved her life. Once she realized she was going to fall, she committed herself freely to “what was going to be a long trip down.”

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.