FALLING ROCK, FALL ON ROCK
On September 11, 1987, Brad Jensen (26) and John Rehmer (34) left the Salt Lake City area to drive to Grand Teton for a climbing trip. They spent the night of the 11th camped in the Snake River Canyon. On September 13, they drove to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station, arriving at 0700. They waited an hour for the station to open so that they could register their climb. They signed out with Ranger Kimbrough for a climb that same day of the Southeast Ridge of the Middle Teton. Their itinerary called for them to camp after the climb in the south fork of Garnet Canyon.
They reached a campsite above the Meadows about 1100. They set up their tent and set off for the climb about 1130. The climb was uneventful. They roped about a dozen pitches. Rehmer led all but two or three of the these pitches, since he was the stronger climber. Rehmer remarked to himself during the climb that Jensen was climbing well; the protection that Jensen placed was good and he had no difficulty with the climbing.
They unroped and third-classed up and right. They roped up again and climbed two more pitches up a crack system in a rather steep buttress. After these two pitches, the angle eased and the terrain became more broken. They decided to unrope and third-class to the south summit. Jensen took the coiled rope in addition to the light day pack that he was carrying. Rehmer took the climbing hardware.
At 1645, Rehmer reached the south summit of the Middle. He called down to Jensen, “Hey, I made it. I’m on the south summit.” Rehmer then asked Jensen if he was doing OK, to which Jensen replied, “Yeah.” Rehmer said that Jensen was very close to reaching the south summit, because he could talk to him easily. Shortly thereafter, Rehmer heard the sound of falling rocks and heard Jensen yell something. Rehmer did not see Jensen falling. However, he did see Jensen at his point of rest, halfway between the south summit and the Dike Pinnacle col.
Rehmer called out to Chris Redfearn, who was on the north summit of the Middle, to go get help. Redfearn heard the falling rocks and started an immediate descent of the Southwest Couloir. Rehmer left his gear on the south summit and started to down-climb, unropcd, the entire stretch that he had just climbed, in order to reach Jensen. The down-climbing was difficult, but Rehmer was able to reach Jensen. He checked repeatedly for a pulse but found none. After spending 20 to 30 minutes with Jensen, Rehmer decided that he could do nothing to help, so he traversed north over to the finishing line of the Dike route.
Rehmer followed the upper portion of the Dike route to the north summit and then descended the Southwest Couloir. He continued down and reached the rescue cache at 2045. After Jensen fell, Rehmer had called several times for help. These cries were heard by climbers on the moraine in the north fork of Garnet Canyon. These climbers reported the cries for help to Ranger Springer at the Lower Saddle at 1800. Springer then alerted me.
I mobilized the rescue team and attempted to secure a helicopter. All three contract helicopters were out of the area on fires in California. Kjerstad helicopters did not answer calls to their home or business. The Mountain Rotors Bell 206 L—III was working on a private contract in the Bonderant area. The contractors agreed to release the ship to the rescue.
It landed at Lupine and picked up Ranger Brackcnfield, who was then flown into the scene with evacuation equipment. The body was subsequently flown off the mountain just before dark. (Source: Peter Armington, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)
Both climbers were equipped and skilled enough to safely do their chosen route. Their decision to climb the last portion of the route unroped was not particularly dangerous. The skill level of each was advanced enough where they should have been able to handle this third-classing. Many climbs in the range, and certainly the last portion of the Southeast Ridge of the Middle, are regularly climbed unroped to speed progress on less steep broken terrain. Loose rock on sections like this is dangerous, as the consequences of this incident demonstrate. (Source. Peter Armington, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)
Editor’s Note: Brad Jensen was also in the last narrative of last year's AN AM report. He survived a winter storm on the Grand Teton and, though he had frostbitten his feet partially, descended to get help for a climbing partner who was experiencing HAPE.