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Unable to Find Descent Route, Darkness, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton

UNABLE TO FIND DESCENT ROUTE, DARKNESS

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton

On July 19 at 2105, I received a cell phone call via Teton Dispatch from John Rasmussen. Rasmussen stated that he and his wife were near the summit of the Grand Teton after having ascended the upper Exum Ridge, and were having difficulty locating the correct rappel point which allows direct access to the Upper Saddle and descent from the mountain. He also stated that he had only one 50-meter rope, and that his wife was suffering from mild hypothermia. I tried to figure out where they were located by asking a series of questions about what they could see from their position in the rapidly fading daylight. I was unable to determine their exact position and suggested that they prepare to spend the night where they were rather than attempt a tricky series of rappels at night. I received another call from Rasmussen about midnight saying that he and his wife were getting quite cold. I asked if they were shivering and he said that they were. I told him that was a good sign and that they should set up an anchor and clip into it for the night, and that I would check in with them at 0600.

When I spoke to Rasmussen at 0600 on the morning of the 20th, he stated that his wife was “very cold” and that they were “requesting assistance.” I suggested that he set up a belay and attempt to climb around the corner and into the sunlight. I also relayed to Rasmussen that they were likely to encounter guided parties making their way down the Owen-Spalding pretty soon. Regarding assistance from the Park Service, I relayed to him that Ranger Jim Springer would be leaving the Lupine Meadows trailhead at 0700 on a regularly scheduled patrol in which he planned to ascend the Owen-Spalding and provide any assistance that he could. Later on in the mourning I learned that a Jackson Hole Mountain Guides party and an Exum party encountered the Rasmussens between the Pownall-Gilkey and Owen-Spalding routes and provided clothing and assistance in getting down the main rappel. Ranger Springer encountered the party near the “Eye of the Needle” as they were making their way down and they were moving along just fine at that point. (Source: Renny Jackson, NPS Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)

Analysis

This is one of those great incident reports because of what it doesn’t say about the potential victims. The most important piece of information here, however, is to note that a night rescue was not set in motion. This was an appropriate call on the part of the ranger. It spared park personnel unnecessary person-hours and potential problems. (Source: Jed Williamson)