American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Wyoming, Tetons

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1986


Wyoming, Tetons

About 1300 on August 17, 1985,1 encountered Bruce McMurtrey (45) while on a mountain patrol of the Owen-Spalding Route on the Grand Teton. He was being lowered by his partners through the Owen Chimneys near the summit. He initially informed me that he had “dinged” his arm, that everything was fine, and that he needed no assistance. After further conversations with his partners and other climbers, I became aware that McMurtrey had taken a small fall near the summit about 1100, and had smashed his right shoulder against a rock wall, dislocating it. I climbed down to McMurtrey at the 40 meter rappel to the Upper Saddle and assisted him during the rappel. A medical exam revealed an anterior dislocation (his first) of the right shoulder, which was still out of joint. McMurtrey was fuily advised of the consequences of such a medical problem and a helicopter flight out was suggested. However, he absolutely insisted on hiking out under his own power and refused medical assistance. Meanwhile, Rescue Coordinator Peter Armington talked with Physician Paul King, and an on-site reduction of the dislocation was suggested because of the delay in medical attention as a result of walking out. McMurtrey was in agreement, and after ten minutes of traction, as indicated by King, the shoulder was reduced. His shoulder was then immobilized with a sling and swath, and McMurtrey was escorted to his car at Lupine Meadows Parking Area. (Source: George Montapoli, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)

(Editor’s Note: The victim is to be commended for determination to self-rescue. The desirability of emergency medical skills for climbers is highlighted here.)

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