American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Climbing Unroped, Loose Rock — Wyoming, Tetons

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1983


Wyoming, Tetons

On August 7, 1982, at 1400, Donald Decker (56) and Paul Beard (19) attempted to climb the west face of the saddle between the South and Middle Tetons. Decker was a very experienced Teton climber who had always wanted to reach that saddle from the west. They were on a backpacking trip with one of Decker’s sons and his daughter-in-law. Decker had signed out to climb the Southwest Couloir of the Middle Teton with his son. During the hike, the younger Decker decided to hike out with his wife. It was then decided that Beard, who was totally inexperienced at climbing, would accompany the older Decker.

The pair hiked to Iceflow Lake and started to ascend the face below the saddle. This whole area is very loose and rotten. Beard was very apprehensive about the undertaking and his frame pack kept shifting and throwing him off balance. Decker was determined to push on. About 65 meters below the saddle, Decker tried to climb a slight overhang. He tested his handholds and pulled up. One of the holds pulled loose and Decker fell 105 meters to his death. Beard stayed where he was. Two campers at Icefloe Lake witnessed the fall and hiked out to notify the rangers. After being flown to the saddle, the rangers rescued Beard at 2100. Decker’s body was recovered from the snow fieldjust above Icefloe Lake the next morning. (Source: Dan Burgette, Grand Teton National Park)

(Editor’s Note: The analysis here seems apparent. The only factor not apparent is why Decker, given his experience, chose to do what he did.)

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