American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998


Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton

On August 22 at 1143, Ranger Leo Larson was at the Lower Saddle when he received word of a possible incident on the Lower Exum Ridge of the Grand Teton. Additional information received from Exum Guide Mark Newcomb via cellular phone indicated that a climber had taken a significant fall on the Lower Exum and that cries for help were coming from the scene. Larson prepared to respond to the scene with park employee Jack McConnell and emergency hire Steve Griffin.

Based on available information, Ranger Mark Magnuson, Rescue Coordinator for the day, requested the contract helicopter respond to Lupine Meadows. Exum Guides Doug Chabot and Wes Bunch, who were above the Lower Saddle, received word of the accident and proceeded directly to the scene.

Chabot and Bunch climbed the first three pitches of the Lower Exum and arrived on scene at 1235. They reported a 32 year old male who had taken a 40 to 50 foot leader fall, sustaining superficial lacerations to the head, hands, and arms, and banged up knees. The victim was alert and oriented, had not lost consciousness, and was ambulatory. The party’s intent after the accident had been to rappel the route, but their rope was shredded in the fall, Ranger Larson and his team, who traversed onto the Lower Exum via Wall Street Couloir, arrived on scene at 1250 and performed additional patient assessment. Following consultation with Dr. Rick McKay at St. John's Hospital emergency room, the decision was made to assist the injured climber, Don Saver, down to the Lower Saddle. Full consideration was given to a thorough neurological examination prior to this decision, which was agreed to by the patient.

Larson and party assisted Saver down to the Lower Saddle by traversing back across the Wall Street Couloir, then down the Owen Couloir. Upon arrival at the Saddle, Saver was flown by helicopter to Lupine Meadows, with ranger Jim Phillips attending. He was then transported by ground ambulance to St. John's Hospital where he was treated for multiple lacerations and contusions.


In a follow-up interview with Saver, he stated that he was leading what appeared to be the third pitch of the Lower Exum route when he lost his grip on the smooth slab and fell. He pulled three pieces of protection during the fall: a small three cam unit, a fixed pin, then a #1 Metolious 4 cam unit. The rope snagged over a rock horn, stopping Saver's fall about 15 feet above a ledge. An examination of the rope (10.5 mm Blue Water) at the point where it snagged the horn, revealed approximately 36 to 48 inches of exposed core (sheath gone), with three internal strands broken. An examination of what is believed to be the 4 cam unit revealed deep scratches/gouges to the curved cam faces. No examination of the other two pieces was possible.

Saver is likely quite fortunate the rope snagged the horn described and performed as it was intended. He was also wearing a helmet, which likely contributed to the minor nature of his injuries. Saver described his fall as “pure air, bouncing several times against the rock.” (Source: Mark Magnuson, SAR Coordinator)

(Editor's Note: The victim is also fortunate that rangers and guides were able to respond expeditiously to the scene.)

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