ROCK BROKE LOOSE, FALL ON ROCK, ICE TOOLS AND PITONS PULLED OUT
Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton
On March 11,1993, around 1000, ranger Renny Jackson received a report of a climbing accident on the Grand Teton. According to the reporting party, MV, his partner, PR, had fallen 100 feet while attempting a route on the north face. The fall occurred near the top of the route, at 1700 on March 10. MV was able to assist PR down the north face and back to their base camp on Teton Glacier, arriving at 2200. PR was stabilized in their tent, and MV skied out to the Taggart Lake Trailhead to report the accident the following morning. PR’s injuries were described as a possible fracture to the forearm and ribs, and possible head injury. Following a temporary loss of consciousness which occurred immediately after the fall, a small amount of blood was observed in PR’s sputum.
Following additional on-scene patient stabilization, PR was secured in the helicopter and flown to St. John’s Hospital in Jackson, arriving ag 1235. Follow-up medical examination by emergency room staff found no fractures or significant injury, but extensive, multiple body contusions. PR was held overnight for observation.
Ranger Mark Magnuson interviewed MV regarding the cause of the accident. MV and PR were attempting a mixed rock and ice route which ascends the east portion of the north face, approximately seven to eight pitches (800 feet) in length. After climbing a multi-pitch ice runnel, PR was leading a final section, preparing to turn the east ridge. PR was standing on ice covered rock with both ice tools placed in thin ice. He later explained to MV that the rock broke loose beneath his feet and both tools pulled. PR fell approximately ten to 20 feet, pulled a long snarg placed completely to the eye, fell an additional 30 feet pulling two pitons, before he was caught by the belay. The last remaining piece of protection above the belay anchors, a tied-off snarg, caught the fall. MV estimated the total falling distance at 100 feet.
Following a temporary loss of consciousness, PR was able to secure himself to the ice/rock face. MV descended to PR’s position and assisted him in rappelling seven pitches to the base of the route. Another half mile descent took them back to their base camp.
PR was described as a very fit and experienced mountaineer who was climbing well within his ability. MV stated that, perhaps, fatigue had been a contributing factor in the fall, as evidenced by PR’s actions and pace prior to the event. Both climbers were wearing helmets which, in the case of PR, probably saved his life. Following a leader fall of 100 feet, given the existing circumstances, conditions, and position on the north face, it is noteworthy that PR and MV were able to effect a self-rescue back to their base camp. (Source: Mark Magnuson, SAR Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)