American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Slip on Snow, Unable to Self-Arrest, Inexperience, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, Middle Teton

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997


Wyoming, Grand Tetons, Middle Teton

Around 1700 on August 1 in the South Fork of Garnet Canyon, Carrissa Johnson (18) was injured when she slipped on snow while descending from the Southwest Couloir of the Middle Teton. She was with a party of nine other Coulter Bay employees, some of whom had camped at the Platforms on the night of July 31. They left the Platforms about 1000 on the morning of August 1 and arrived on the summit of the Middle Teton around 1500. The group had talked about the use of ice axes, but Johnson had not done any actual practice.

Several of the party descended a snowfield into the South Fork without incident. Johnson glissaded part of the way down the snowfield, then lost control and rolled about 100 feet to the rocks below. She hit the rocks with her back and bounced to a lower ledge.

Brandon Osterman reached Johnson in a few seconds and began checking her condition. She had not lost consciousness and could feel and move her extremities. At 1800 Johnson was helped to the camp of some climbers about a quarter of a mile down canyon from the accident site. One of the group, Stewart Harman, and the occupants of the camp stayed with Johnson during the night. David Albano descended to the valley for help.

At 2145 a climber from a separate group, who had seen the accident from a distance, called Grand Teton dispatch, who contacted the SAR coordinator, Tom Kimbrough. Another passing climber who did some medical assessment reported to Kimbrough at 2240. This assessment indicated a possibility of a back injury and possible internal injuries. After consultation with medical coordinator Lanny Johnson, a decision was made to dispatch two climbing rangers to evaluate Johnson’s condition. Rangers Jim Phillips and Andy Byerly started up at 2400 with medical equipment. David Albano reported in with more information at 0030.

By 0600 on the morning of August 2, Phillips and Byerly were searching the South Fork of Garnet without result. While they descended to the Platforms to see if Johnson had reached that point, Rangers Leo Larson and Bill Culbreath climbed the Middle Teton from the Lower Saddle and descended the Southwest Couloir into the South Fork in search of Johnson. Larson and Culbreath located Johnson at 0830.

The Yellowstone LAMA arrived at Lupine Meadows at 0945 and began airlifting equipment and rescuers into Garnet. By 1045 Rangers Alexander, Benham, Wise and Yellowstone Ranger Steve Underwood were assisting Phillips, Byerly, Culbreath and Larson in lowering Johnson to the helicopter landing site. The lowering was complete by 1200 and Johnson was flown to Lupine Meadows, accompanied by Phillips, arriving at 1220. She was taken to St. John’s Hospital by ambulance where she was treated for cuts, bruises and abrasions and released. (Source: Tom Kimbrough, SAR Ranger)

(Editor’s Note: While the frequency of summer employees getting into situations like this has decreased, there are still one or two major incidents each year Those who are work- ing for concessions in the park receive a fairly thorough briefing—but they do not always engage in the training that is suggested.)

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