American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow, Unable to Self Arrest — Wyoming, Tetons

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


Wyoming, Tetons

Paul Gordon (36) was a four-year resident of Jackson Hole and a moderately experienced climber. On August 18, 1982, he and Maureen Flanagan hiked to Amphitheater Lake to practice snow climbing on the slopes nearby. After practicing on easy snow slopes above the lake, Gordon went to climb the east couloir on Disappointment Peak, a route he had climbed before. Flanagan, being less confident, stayed on the easier snow slopes below. Gordon climbed the couloir successfully and then began to descend by the same route. Around 1430, he slipped on the snow surface. He was carrying an ice ax but was unable to arrest his slide on the hard snow surface. He fell approximately 65 meters and hit a rock wall on the edge of the couloir. Flanagan, who witnessed the fall, climbed to him to administer what first aid she could; then she went for help.

The Jenny Lake rescue team was notified of the accident at 1615. Climbing Ranger Harris was flown to Amphitheater Lake by helicopter; by 1645, he reached the scene but found that Gordon had succumbed to his injuries. The rescue team lowered his body to Amphitheater Lake and, from there, it was evacuated by helicopter. (Source: Craig Patterson, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)


Gordon had the necessary skill and equipment for the climb. He knew how to selfarrest and had been practicing that technique prior to his accident. Although the surface of the snow slope was firm corn, it was not difficult to get purchase by digging in an ice-ax pick. But for some reason, Gordon was unable to self-arrest. (Source: Craig Patterson, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)

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