American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Wyoming, Tetons

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1980

FALLING ROCK

Wyoming, Tetons

On August 6, Shad Dusseau, Terry Green, and Leo Larson, Park Rangers, were climbing the Black Ice Couloir on the Grand Teton on a routine mountain patrol. Dusseau had led the first ice pitch and was belaying Larson when a massive rockfall came down the couloir. Dusseau was hit on the leg and Larson’s left femur was fractured. Green was not injured and was able to assist with the ensuing rescue. Dusseau’s injuries turned out to be a severely bruised knee as well as a cracked and chipped femur. Despite his injuries, he was able to assist with Larson’s medical treatment and was also able to rappel the entire route to the eventual helicopter landing site. After lowering Larson to the bottom of the pitch, the party was able to call for help with the Park Service radio which is carried on all mountain patrols.

An Alouette III helicopter was dispatched from Yellowstone National Park to transport the rescue team. Beginning at 11:10 a.m., eight rescuers were flown to the Lower Saddle from which the Valhalla Traverse was used to gain access to the accident site. The victims were reached by the first two members of the rescue team at 1:30 p.m. One liter of IV fluid (Lactated Ringers) and 10 mg. of morphine were administered to Larson under Dr. Mott’s supervision, and Dusseau was given first aid for his injuries.

The descent began at 5:30 p.m. with a 250-foot lowering to the site which was to be used to winch the victim into an army Chinook helicopter from Fort Carson, Colarado. The military helicopter was unable to reach the site due to failing light conditions, so the group spent the night there. At 8:30 p.m. another 10 mg. of morphine were administered to Larson. The rescue operation continued the following morning. Another 10 mg. of morphine were administered at 7 a.m. The litter was then lowered 240 feet over vertical and overhanging rock and moved approximately 500 feet across and down a mixed snow and ice slope. A non-technical carry over 100 feet of scree brought the litter to a suitable winching site, and Larson was hoisted into the military helicopter. He was returned to Lupine Meadows, transferred to the Alouette helicopter and flown directly to St. John’s Hospital in Jackson, arriving there at 12:20 p.m. (Source: Bob Irvine, Grand Teton National Park)

Analysis

Being in a place like the Black Ice Couloir is like being in a vertical bowling alley. It is difficult, at best, to protect oneself when rockfall from above occurs. These climbers did everything right under the circumstances. One can only speculate as to what might have resulted with climbers not as well equipped and with lesser experience. (Source: J. Williamson)

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