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Fall on Snow, Inexperience, Party Separated, Inadequate Equipment, Wyoming, Tetons

FALL ON SNOW, INEXPERIENCE, PARTY SEPARATED, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT

Wyoming, Tetons

On October 10 at 10 a.m. Carlos Medrano (25), Fernand Kuhr (23), and Chesley Rowe (21) set out from the Meadows in Garnet Canyon to climb the Grand Teton via the Owen-Spaulding Route. Only Rowe had climbed before and had signed out to climb. The other two lacked any experience. The group had no leadership nor climbing equipment, such as axes and ropes, lacked proper footwear and had no knowledge of the route. The trio was climbing from the Lower Saddle to the Upper Saddle when Kuhr climbed to the east away from Rowe and Medrano. Medrano had led the whole way and came to a red rope hanging in the Owen Couloir about 400 feet below the Upper Saddle. Rowe cautioned him against using it, climbed on and lost track of Medrano (1:30 p.m.). Rowe and Kuhr met a short time later and climbed to the Upper Saddle. Not seeing Medrano, they climbed around the area calling his name. At 2 p.m., they started back down the route calling for him, thinking that he had turned around and gone back to camp. They arrived at the Lower Saddle at 3:30 p.m., continued to the Meadows (5 p.m.), and not finding Medrano started back up. Feeling hopeless, they descended to seek help. Rangers were notified at 7:30 p.m. Medrano had, according to footprints, found hard snow, continued up past the red rope, where he was last seen and started to cross a steep, hard, snow patch in the couloir directly adjacent to the enclosure. He had no ice axe and was wearing crepe- soled hunting boots. Presumably, after kicking a few tiny steps in the snow, he had slipped and fallen about 800 to 1000 feet down the couloir on snow, ice, rock, scree and over several short cliffbands.

A ground search was initiated the following morning at 6 a.m. Rangers proceeded up Dartmouth Basin and up Garnet Canyon to the Lower Saddle. Medrano’s body was found at 2:45 p.m., October 11, in the couloir. The following morning the body was extracted from the ice and flown out by helicopter. (Source: Ralph Tingey, Grand Teton National Park)

Analysis

Of the 23 individuals involved in mountain-related accidents in the Tetons during 1978, only three were experienced climbers. The rest were cases just like the ones presented here. (Source: J. Williamson)