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Slip on Snow, Failure to Self-Arrest, Wyoming, Disappointment Peak


Wyoming, Disappointment Peak

On August 4, 1991, at 1445, Kent Fortner (22) and Thomas George (20) were attempting to climb Disappointment Peak via the east couloir above Amphitheater Lake. Approximately half way up the steep snow of the couloir, George planted his ice ax and stopped to rest. His feet slid out from underneath him. In grabbing for his ice ax and attempting to self-arrest, a previously dislocated shoulder popped out. George was unable to regain control of his ice ax and started an uncontrolled slide down the couloir. He struck the rock wall edge of the couloir at least once, fell approximately 500 feet down the snow, struck the rocks at the toe of the snow and catapulted approximately 20 to 30 feet further.

Fortner and others in the area assisted George down to the lake. Fortner then ran down to report the accident, arriving at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station at 1555. A helicopter was immediately requested, which arrived at Lupine at 1625. Numerous ranger personnel were flown in to the lake. George was packaged for transport and carried around the lake to the helispot. He was subsequently airlifted to St. John’s Hospital. (Source: Peter Armington, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)


This gully has been the site of several previous accidents. A rope is not usually used. However, hard snow late in summer in Wyoming is hazardous. Snow is consistently an underestimated climbing medium, ranked second in causes of accidents by this publication. It is also a common terrain for accidents in many of the climbing and outdoor skills schools. (Source: Renny Jackson, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)