American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Handhold Broke Off, Fall on Rock, No Belay Anchors, No Hard Hats, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Death Canyon

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


Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Death Canyon

On September 15, 1992, two experienced climbers (31 and 30) started up the Snaz shortly after noon after registering for their climb that morning at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. Since both of them had climbed together for many years and had done much longer climbs than the Snaz, it did not seem unreasonable to them to begin at such a late hour. They scrambled up the first pitch unroped and decided not to set up any anchors at the belay for the second pitch. At 1300 as one was leading, he decided to climb out and to the east. (He was about 20 feet off route at that time.) As he attempted to clip his rope into a #3 Camalot that he had placed, his right hand hold broke off and he fell. He was airborne for 40 feet before he landed in a sitting position on the large belay ledge. He rolled another 20 feet down the sloping ledge before coming to rest at the top of the first pitch. He had sustained a serious injury to the left side of his pelvis.

After hearing about the accident by radio, rescue personnel were shuttled to a staging area in Death Canyon by helicopter. Rangers were inserted to a location near the accident scene with medical and climbing equipment. They then climbed to the injured party, made an initial assessment and prepared the patient for transport. He was evacuated from the ledge using the short-haul technique and then flown directly to St. John's Hospital in Jackson. Later in the evening he was flown to Salt Lake City and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of University Hospital.


A variety of modem rescue techniques were used in the evacuation of this critically injured patient including helicopter insertion, technical climbing and short-haul. These techniques, coupled with the application of advanced emergency medical care, are certainly responsible for saving his life. It is interesting to note that although both of these climbers were quite experienced, neither of them was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident nor had they placed any belay anchors. It is very fortunate that the victim managed to prevent his partner from continuing down off the first pitch of the climb. (Source: Renny Jackson, SAR Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)


ANAM 1992, pg. 53, end of second paragraph: The “Source” for the August 4 glassading accident should have read Brian Blair who, in fact, was the victim. Bert Daniels had completed and submitted the accident report, but the “I” referred to was Blair.

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