American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall/Slip on Loose Rock—Wyoming, The Tetons, Baxter's Couloir

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1977

FALL/SLIP ON LOOSE ROCK—Wyoming, The Tetons, Baxter’s Couloir. John Wahlund (22) was a member of a five person party which had climbed Baxter’s Pinnacle. They had just completed the rappel from the Pinnacle and were beginning to descend the South Couloir. Wahlund lost his footing while pulling down the rappel rope and fell some 20 feet down the Couloir landing on his head. He then continued to roll another 30 feet before stopping, sustaining head lacerations and possible fractures. Party member David Taylor then went around the lake and notified the Jenny Lake Boat Dock (Harvey) at 9 p.m. The rescue team was alerted and Nelson and Bellamy left the Cache at 10 p.m. arriving at the scene at 11 p.m., where they found Wahlund semicomatose. The victim was bandaged, splinted and loaded into the litter for transport.

Difficulties in the rotten Couloir and the irrational behavior of the patient hampered the operation. Wahlund kept tearing off dressing and bandages and attempting to exit the litter under hazardous technical lowering situations. Some 600 feet of technical lowering were accomplished with 450 feet being done on a single upper anchor utilizing 300 foot ropes with attached 150 foot ropes via a knot transfer. Technical lowering was completed at 3:40 a.m. and the support team then made belayed non-technical lowerings down the talus slope to the trail from where Wahlund was wheeled to the west shore boat dock arriving at 5:39 a.m. (Source: Mark Harvey, Grand Teton National Park)

Analysis: Although Wahlund was off the technical portion of the climb, Baxter’s Couloir is steep and rotten with loose footing. A hard hat would possibly have minimized the injuries. (Source: Pete Hart, Grand Teton National Park.)

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