American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock — Cause Unknown, Climbing Alone, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton, Owen-Spaulding Route

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 1998

FALL ON ROCK—CAUSE UNKNOWN, CLIMBING ALONE

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton, Owen-Spaulding Route

On June 23 at 0825, Amer Beslagic (38) obtained a back-country camping permit at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station for a campsite at the Moraine in Garnet. His intention was to solo climb the Grand Teton via the Owen-Spaulding Route on the following day. From a high camp on the Moraine on June 24, he passed through the Lower Saddle and continued up a variation of the route via a couloir to the west. About 0830, a witness in the Lower Saddle observed Beslagic falling down the couloir from a location near the Upper Saddle. This witness and other climbers in the area traversed to Beslagic and confirmed that there were no signs of life. One of the climbers then descended to the valley to report the incident at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. Grand Teton National Park rangers responded and recovered Beslagic's body from the mountain the same evening.

Analysis

It is difficult to assess Beslagic's experience as a climber, since he almost always climbed alone. The difficulty of his previous climbs do not seem to be of the same caliber as the Owen-Spaulding Route under the conditions of the route on June 24. Though Beslagic was on a steep and hazardous part of the climb, it was by no means the crux of the climb. The difficulties of the Owen-Spaulding Route were definitely ahead on the route. Witnesses stated that he appeared to be moving well and competently before the accident occurred.

The conditions on the upper part of the Owen-Spaulding Route at the time of the accident could best be described as extreme—similar to the conditions that would be encountered during a winter ascent. However, the portion of the climb where Beslagic fell was probably quite good at that particular time of day. The snow conditions at the place that Beslagic's body came to rest were described as frozen neve—perfect for crampons. The weather conditions at the time of the accident were clear and cold, but windy.

Beslagic appeared to have adequate equipment for climbing the section of the route on which he fell. He had mountain boots, crampons, ice ax and appropriate clothing. He did not take a rope, which would have been very useful higher on the climb. Since he did not have a partner, it is unlikely that he would have used a rope to belay himself on the couloir where he fell. Beslagic did not have a climbing helmet that was found at the scene nor was a helmet seen by witnesses. A helmet would not have been a factor in surviving a fall of this magnitude.

It is unclear exactly why Beslagic fell. He apparently lost his ice ax at the beginning of his slide. As the investigating ranger on scene stated that under the conditions in the Idaho Express on the day of the accident, a self-arrest would have had to be performed immediately to be of any use. Possibilities for the cause of the accident include Beslagic being blown over by a gust of wind or just losing his balance and dropping his ice tool.

Beslagic was well informed about the route, its current difficult conditions, and the hazards of soloing. He received this information from a park ranger when he obtained his back-country permit, other climbers on the mountain and in the valley, and from informational brochures and trailhead signs. He apparently had a sufficient command of the English language to understand these warnings. (Source: Rich Perch, SAR Ranger)

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