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Fall on Snow, Inadequate Equipment, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Paintbrush Divide

FALL ON SNOW, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Paintbrush Divide

On the afternoon of June 7, 1994, David Turk and Dan Turk (25) were traversing a steep snow couloir near Paintbrush Divide when Dan Turk slipped and fell approximately 300 feet down steep snow and rock. Turk’s fall was stopped when he wrapped a small tree just prior to launching over a 30 foot cliff. Injuries included an open fracture to the lower leg and multiple deep lacerations to the head, lower back (with potential spinal injury), and legs. Rangers Jim Springer, Renny Jackson, and Mark Magnuson responded to the area, descended to Turk’s position, and stabilized his injuries. Turk was evacuated from the scene by helicopter shorthaul just prior to an approaching storm.

Analysis

The Turks were attempting to reach Paintbrush Divide at the 10,700 foot elevation. In spite of a low snowpack this route required crossing several steep snowfields, typical of early season high country travel in the Tetons. The Turks were not equipped with ice axes. Had a rapid rescue response not occurred, limited warm clothing may have added yet another twist to their misfortune with a storm that dropped up to eight inches of snow late that afternoon.

(Editor’s Note: While this was a hiking accident, it is included here because of the popularity of this particular route, and the need to call attention to the fact that snow is often encountered on it—even in July and on occasion in August.)