American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow, Unable to Self-Arrest, Inexperienced, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Mount Teewinot

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993

FALL ON SNOW, UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST, INEXPERIENCED

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Mount Teewinot

On July 10, 1992, at 1050, a victim slipped and fell while attempting an ascent of the east face of Teewinot. She and her partner were at the 11,800 foot level near the bottom of the snow-filled couloir that leads to the summit of the peak, just 500 feet above. She lost her footing on the snow, slid for 30 feet and then somersaulted into the talus where she came to rest just slightly above a large cliff. Her climbing partner managed to move her into a stable, sitting position and then started passing the word down the mountain that a rescue was needed. There were four other parties on the face at the time of the accident.

The accident was reported at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station at 1200, and the Aerospatiale Lama was requested from Yellowstone. Due to the longer response time of this helicopter, rangers Larson and Carr were dispatched on foot from the Lupine Meadows parking area at 1215. Upon arrival of the Lama at 1325, rangers Harrington, Irvine and Dorward were flown to the 11,500 foot saddle on the west side of the mountain with medical gear and limited climbing equipment. Larson was first on the accident scene at 1426 and began an initial patient assessment shortly afterward. She was reported to be in stable condition with possible injuries to her head, lower back and arm.

A decision to short-haul the patient was made and the helicopter was rigged for the operation. The short-haul litter and additional equipment was delivered at 1520 and the patient was placed on a backboard. The hook-up procedure was completed at 1552 and the patient arrived back down at the Lupine Meadows rescue cache after a short, three minute flight. She was transported to St. John's Hospital in Jackson by Park ambulance where she was treated for her injuries and released later in the evening.

Analysis

The victim was very fortunate indeed to have escaped practically unscathed from this mishap. Neither person had ever practiced ice axe self-arrest techniques before the incident. Finally, the response time of Ranger Leo Larson, who climbed approximately 5,000 vertical feet in two hours and 15 minutes, is particularly noteworthy. (Source: Renny Jackson, SAR Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)

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