American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Amanita Mushrooms — Wyoming, Tetons

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1985


Wyoming, Tetons

At 0915 on August 10, 1984, Larry West (37) and Darell Nielson (36) left the Lupine Meadows parking area for a climb on the Petzoldt Ridge of the Grand Teton. Nearing the spring on the first switchback up from the Valley Trail junction, Larry noticed some mushrooms that he thought were of the same variety that he and a friend had eaten before. There were about five of them in a small, damp grove just off the trail and they washed them off and Larry ate two and Darell ate just one. They both had not eaten very much at all that morning.

An hour later as they were approaching the Surprise Lake drainage, Larry mentioned that he felt sick to his stomach. Further along, travel through the section of boulders past the Platforms area became more difficult as they both felt very dizzy and their vision was distorted by not being able to focus on just any one thing. Thirty meters below the Meadows camping area, they dropped their packs and Larry vomited. They slept for a while, became unable to control their extremities, experienced a dreamlike level of consciousness, and Darell laughed for extended periods of time. Realiziing that they were in trouble and convinced that they might die, Darell tried to get up to the Meadows for help, but fell and twisted his right ankle.

Rangers Montopoli and Harrington came upon Mr. West and Mr. Nielson about 1330 while on a mountain patrol in Garnet Canyon. They found the pair to be in an altered state of consciousness and rapidly losing motor control. Vital signs and symptoms were communicated to St.John’s Hospital, and at 1350 Roger Kjerstad was contacted for a helicopter evacuation. At 1410 Montopoli reported that they were at the helispot, and Jim Dorward flew up from Lupine Meadows at 1418 with medical gear and oxygen. At 1427 the helicopter arrived at St. John’s with Mr. Nielson, accompanied by Montopoli, and at 1458 Mr. West was evacuated from Garnet Canyon after having an I-V and oxygen started.

Mr. Nielson and Mr. West were observed in the emergency room at St. John’s all night long and vomiting was induced from time to time. They were released on the morning of the 11th, and both said that they felt normal after their “trip” in Garnet Canyon the day before. (Source: Renny Jackson, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)


Climbers and hikers take note: Debbie Reber of the Student Conservation Association went up to Garnet Canyon on August 11 and collected all the remaining mushrooms. With the help of two amateur mycologists, the mushrooms in question were keyed out to be of the Amanita variety. What with horses, climbers, and other critters up there, one never knows what may grow from one year to the next. (Source: J. Williamson)

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