American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow—Unable to Self-Arrest, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

FALL ON SNOW-UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton

I met ranger Chris Harder at approximately 0830 hours at his residence at Beaver Creek on the morning of March 12. We had planned to go on a backcountry ski patrol up to the top of the peak 9,925 located immediately west of the Beaver Creek residential area. While at Beaver Creek I received a phone call from John Kidde at 0845, who reported that his friends, Matthew

Neuner (25) and Elizabeth Dyer (27), were overdue from their proposed one-day, winter ascent of the Grand Teton. Based on the information that he gave us, we decided to switch our proposed patrol area to Garnet Canyon. We left the Taggart Lake trailhead and made our way up and over the moraine to Bradley Lake and then proceeded up into Garnet Canyon. Just below the Platforms we met Hans Johnstone, an Exum mountain guide, who reported that while he was at the Lower Saddle he had heard cries for help up toward the Grand Teton. He had responded with a sleeping bag and a pad to the area of the Black Dike, contacted Neuner and Dyer, stabilized her, and then proceeded down the canyon to report the accident.

Johnstone reported that Dyer had fallen several hundred feet that morning while descending from an ascent of the Grand and had suffered a significant head injury with an associated loss of consciousness. She was stable when he left her, in a sleeping bag and on a pad, and attended by her climbing partner. Johnstone was accompanied by Mark Newcomb and Greg Seitz and I requested all of their assistance for the subsequent rescue operation. I also notified South District ranger Andy Fisher of the situation since he was to be the Incident Commander during this SAR. After our rendezvous, the five of us then skied down to the west shore of Bradley Lake to prepare a heli-spot for a pickup and shuttle to the Lower Saddle.

About 1700, Dyer was evacuated from the scene of the incident via short- haul and was flown down to a heli-spot near Park headquarters at Moose. Ranger Chris Harder attended the patient during the flight to the valley floor. The patient was transferred to air ambulance and taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls where she was treated for her injuries during the next several weeks and eventually released.

Analysis

Matthew Neuner and Elizabeth Dyer successfully completed a one-day, winter ascent of a difficult, technical mixed route on the south side of the Grand Teton. They were late completing the climb and elected to bivouac near the summit of the peak. During the descent Dyer slipped, was not able to perform a self-arrest, and consequently fell several hundred feet down the mountain. She was wearing a ski helmet, which was apparently destroyed during the fall, but probably saved her life. This particular accident illustrates the most common type of accident that occurs in the backcountry of Grand Teton National Park—a fall on snow and a failure to execute a successful self-arrest. (Source: Renny Jackson, SAR Incident Commander)

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