American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall on Rock, Failure of Nut

Wyoming, Tetons

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year: 1982
  • Publication Year: 1983

On August 24, 1982, Peter Miller (30) and Krag Unsoeld (26) were climbing the Guide’s Wall. Around 1300, Unsoeld was leading the “double cracks” pitch. As he climbed the pitch, he placed two nuts. He ran into difficulty climbing and attempted to traverse into the left-hand crack. As he did so, his upper piece of protection fell out. Unsoeld then slipped and fell six meters, hitting the belay ledge before his belayer could catch him on the rope. He landed on his back. Although he was wearing an MSR helmet, he was knocked unconscious. Miller assisted him as best he could, anchored him and went for help. The Jenny Lake Ranger Station was notified at 1345. Ranger Craig Patterson radioed Rangers Irvine, Jackson, and Perch, who were climbing nearby, and Rangers Shackelton and Young, who were hiking nearby. Seven more climbing rangers flew to the scene by helicopter. They lowered Unsoeld to the base of the cliff and carried him to the helispot, from which he was flown to St. John’s Hospital and treated for a basilar skull fracture. (Source: Craig Patterson, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park.)

Editor’s Note: Unsoeld’s recovery is nearly complete. He still has not recovered his sense of smell. The skull fracture in this case was located at the posterior base of the skull because of the hard hat. The extent of the head injury, had he not been wearing a helmet, would have been much greater.

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