American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling/Dislodged Rock, Wyoming, Wind River Range, Easy Day Peak

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

FALLING/DISLODGED ROCK

Wyoming, Wind River Range, Easy Day Peak

On August, 9 at 1100, while following the first Pitch of the North Face route on Easy Day Peak (11,660 feet), Mark Gallagher pulled a large block off onto himself, and sustained injuries to both of his lower legs. His climbing partner, David Oka, lowered Gallagher to a ledge, fixed him to an anchor, and then rappelled to provide assistance. Two of Gallagher’s companions, who were at the group’s campsite at Shadow Lake, came up with first aid and other equipment to help with the rescue effort. Together they managed to splint one of Gallagher’s legs and lower him off the technical portion of the climb. At this point Oka ran out to Big Sandy trailhead and then drove to Big Sandy Lodge and reported the accident via cellular telephone to Sublette County Sheriff Hank Ruland. Sheriff Ruland, IC for the incident, then requested the assistance of Grand Teton National Park SAR personnel from the Jenny Lake subdistrict about 1800. The initial report of the accident indicated that the injured party was 500–1,000 vertical feet above Shadow Lake and at least one technical climbing pitch up on the route. Three Jenny Lake rangers (Larson, Byerly, and Guenther) along with the Bridger/Teton helitack foreman (Stailey) were flown to Shadow Lake, where the injured climber and his party were spotted during an aerial reconnaissance. All of the equipment required to accomplish both technical and non-technical lowerings as well as the emergency medicaland helicopter shorthaul gear to stabilize and evacuate the patient were on board the aircraft. Due to weight restrictions and the high altitude, the helitack crew member was flown to the 8,000 foot level and dropped off. Rangers Larson, Byerly, and Guenther were then flown to a meadow below Easy Day Peak, setting down at 2030.

Once on the ground, the rangers were met by a member of the party and apprised of Gallagher’s injuries and overall condition. The rangers then climbed up to Gallagher’s location, arriving at 2100, and met the rescue party at the start of the non-technical terrain. After assessing the patient’s condition the group began a series of non-technical lowerings down the slope. Gallagher was placed on a backboard and belayed down five rope lengths as the rangers and other climbers carried the litter. At 2215 the patient and rescuers arrived at the meadow below the peak, and a decision was made to set up camp.

As camp was being set up, a more thorough assessment revealed a possible fracture of the right tibia, a laceration on the right foot, and a laceration/avulsion of the medial left ankle. The injuries were cleaned and rebandaged and the right leg resplinted. A request was made to Medical Advisor Lanny Johnson for the antibiotic Ancef, due to the nature of his wounds. Permission was granted, an IV was inserted, and 1.5 grams of Ancef were given with no complications.

At 0855 the following morning Helicopter 6AH picked up the patient and ranger Byerly and they were flown to Pinedale Airport, where they were met by the Pinedale ambulance. Helicopter 6AH then returned for rangers Larson and Guenther. The patient was taken to the clinic in Pinedale, then transported to St.John’s Hospital in Jackson. X-rays found a comminuted fracture of the right tibia, a hairline fracture just distal to the right knee, and no fractures to the left leg. All SAR personnel were back in Grand Teton National Park by 1500 on August 12. (Source: Renny Jackson, SAR Ranger)

(Editor’s Note: It wasn’t too many years ago that a rescue like this in the Wind River Range would have been more difficult and complicated. It probably would have taken several days, and would have been without the benefit of antibiotics.)

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