American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Icy Rock—Blown Over by Wind, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999


Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton

On June 25, James McDonald, Larry Susanka and Dan Sola (38) were attempting to climb the Exum Ridge of the Grand Teton in icy conditions with a storm in progress. Around 1430 Sola fell about ten feet while leading the Friction Pitch. Sola was wearing crampons on the iced rock, but was caught by a strong gust of wind and blown over backwards. He had protection below him, but still hit the belay ledge, dislocating his right shoulder and injuring his ankle. Susanka used a cell phone to call 911 and was connected to Ranger Tom Kimbrough at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. Susanka asked for route information, but stated that the party would try to descend without help. Park Medical Control, Lanny Johnson, PA, was contacted and called Susanka to talk them through the reduction of the dislocated shoulder. When Johnson reached them by cell phone, the reduction had already been accomplished. The group rappelled and down- climbed the Exum Ridge, occasionally calling for route information. They reached Wall Street, the end of the most technical part of the descent, at 1840. Continuing down, they arrived at the Lower Saddle at 2130.

When this group left the Lower Saddle to climb the Grand Teton at 0445, a fourth member of the party, Jack Hicks, elected not to climb. He remained at the Saddle, and when tents began to be blown down by strong winds, he broke the window of the Ranger Hut to gain access to better shelter. He also contacted Mike Detmer, a ham radio operator in Jackson, to let the Park know that weather conditions were severe and that he was worried about the other members of his group. Detmer continued to assist with communications until the climbers were safe at the Lower Saddle.

Susanka and Sola continued their descent to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead during the night of June 25. They arrived at the trailhead at 0230 on June 26. Hicks and McDonald spent the night at the Saddle, returning to the trailhead by 1400. (Source: Tom Kimbrough, SAR Ranger)

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