American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Falling Rock, Wyoming, Tetons

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984

FALL ON ROCK, FALLING ROCK

Wyoming, Tetons

On July 4, Greg Smith and Melissa Malm (28) were climbing a route on Prospectors’ Mountain (3370 meters) named the “Upper Northeast Face” (II, F6).

Around 1430 at the 3150-meter level, Smith led a traversing pitch, and Malm was following. She fell and pendulumed into a sharp rock, breaking her right femur. A rock flake, around which Smith had placed a sling for protection, pulled loose and struck Malm on the top of her hard hat. Her hard hat fractured, causing a small laceration on her scalp.

Smith maneuvered Malm to a ledge, where he anchored her, attempted to splint her leg with a stick, and made her as comfortable as possible with extra clothing. He then downclimbed the route and went for help. At 1625 he reached a pay phone at Whitegrass Ranch and called the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. I mobilized the Jenny Lake rescue team and ordered our contract helicopter from Big Piney, Wyoming. The helicopter arrived at 1755, and by 1900 had airlifted four climbing rangers to the summit. During the next two hours, four more climbing rangers were airlifted to the top, and made their way through steep, loose, technical rock terrain to Malm’s position.

By 1130, Malm was stabilized, using pain medication, Sager traction splint, and IV fluids. No evacuation operations were commenced because of darkness.

Beginning at 0430 on July 5, the rescue team lowered Malm in a Thompson litter down a 90-meter, partially overhanging cliff, and then down 300 meters of steep snow to a cirque near the 2880-meter level. They shoveled out a landing platform, and at 0920, the contract helicopter flew in, picked up Malm and Ranger–EMT Dorward, and flew them directly to St. John’s Hospital in Jackson. (Source: Craig Patterson, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)

Analysis

Malm’s hard hat—a “Seda” Kelar kayaking helmet—probably saved her life. Details regarding Malm’s level of ability, whether she was being belayed, and the reason for the kind of protection chosen are unknown. (Source: Craig Patterson, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)

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