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Slip on Snow, Inadequate Equipment, Wyoming, Middle Teton

SLIP ON SNOW, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT

Wyoming, Middle Teton

On September 4, 1991, at 1600, Fred Perl, Curt Pohr and Bonnie Schwartz (25) were descending the Southwest Couloir route of the Middle Teton. Schwartz had been descending across the top of the snowfield at the 11,500 foot level. At the edge of a steep dropoff, she slipped and lost her footing. She fell approximately 200 feet hitting several boulders at the bottom of the snow slope, sustaining multiple abrasions and contusions on her right hip, hands and face.

Perl and Pohr descended to her location, assessed her injuries, and administered first aid. Perl determined that Schwartz could not walk out, and another climber in the area (Olson) volunteered to report the accident to Park officials. Olson descended to the valley and reported the accident to Park Dispatch at 2140.

Rangers Alexander and Morris were dispatched to the accident site with medical and bivouac equipment. Arriving at 0340 the morning of September 5, Alexander and Morris treated Schwartz for hypothermia and a possible fractured femur.

At 0655, Rangers Armington and Carr were flown to the area by the Grand Teton National Park contract helicopter, piloted by Ken Johnson. Alexander, Armington, Carr, Morris, Perl, and Pohr carried Schwartz to the helicopter in a scoop stretcher. Schwartz and Alexander were flown to the Bridge-Teton National Forest helipad in Jackson, where they were met by the St. John’s Hospital Ambulance. Schwartz arrived at St. John’s at 0825.

Analysis

While Schwartz had climbed the Southwest Couloir route on two previous occasions in 1991, she had “no technical climbing experience.” She was familiar with self-arrest techniques, but did not have an ice ax and was not wearing a helmet. The Southwest Couloir route is commonly climbed without ropes and the snow is easily avoidable in late season. (Source: Jim Dorward, Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)