American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow – Wyoming, The Tetons

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1978

FALL ON SNOW—Wyoming, The Tetons. Brian White (30), Bradley Rich and David Tippets were descending from the Grand Teton on June 19. The party had climbed the Exum route to the summit and were descending the Owen Spaulding route, which had patches of snow and ice and was considered very slippery. Mr. White had complained of dizziness and nausea earlier in the day. About 50 feet below the summit is a sloping ledge at the top of the Great West Chimney. The party was crossing an easy snowfield here and was not roped up. Rich was first, followed by Tippets, and White. Rich looked back and saw White fall down, but not lose his footing. He stood up again and immediately slipped and fell down the snow and over the west face of the Grand Teton and down the Great West Chimney. Tippets heard his scream, turned and saw him sliding down the snow. After the accident Rich and Tippets searched the area, but were unable to locate White. They returned to the Lower Saddle and notified Mr. Horton who notified Ranger Olson at the Platforms” in Garnet Canyon. Rangers Olson and Kimbrough notified dispatch of the accident and started up the mountain to search.

A rescue was begun; the Forest Service helicopter was called and Ranger Nelson flew a reconnaissance flight to locate White. His body was discovered on a snowfield at the upper end of Valhalla Canyon at the base of the west face about 3000 feet below the accident. The rescue helicopter landed Rangers Nelson and Matous within 200 feet of the body, which was recovered and returned to Lupine Meadows at 7:45 p.m. (Source: Ralph Tingey, Grand Teton National Park.)

Analysis: The party elected not to rope up here, which is not uncommon. They had no ice axes, and perhaps given the known conditions, should have. White’s altitude sickness was probably a contributing factor. (Source: J. Williamson.)

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