STRANDED, OFF ROUTE
Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton
On July 24, 1993, at 2330, I received a phone call from NPS dispatch. The dispatcher told me that ranger Jim Woodmencey was at the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton and reported repeatedly seeing the universal distress signal of three light flashes coming from high on the West Face of the Exum Ridge. I talked to Woodmencey by radio and confirmed the report.
It turned out that two climbers (46 and 39) were uninjured and just stuck in the middle of the face. They had become lost on the Exum Ridge route and traversed into the West Face of the Exum and then rappelled 75 feet into nowhere just before dark on June 23.
Additional climbing rangers were flown to the Lower Saddle at 0630 on July 25 and assisted Woodmencey in evacuating them to the Lower Saddle.
During the walk down to the Lower Saddle, one of them was very unsteady on his feet and had to be spotted on easy technical terrain. Ranger Randy Harrington described him as looking like he was going to fall any minute even after Harrington took his pack. This unsteadiness and the fact that both climbers moved very slowly and asked for a belay to rappel off the route led the climbing rangers to discourage them from continuing their proposed plan of climbing the Black Ice Couloir, a much more serious endeavor. Just the approach to the Black Ice is more serious than anything they had climbed.
Another interesting note was that one of them said they were not stuck and that he was shining the light to signal that they were OK. The other disagreed and repeatedly said they were stuck and were signaling that they needed help. (Source: Scott Berkenfield, SAR Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)