American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection at Rappel Anchor, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION AT RAPPEL ANCHOR

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton

At approximately 1500 on August 15, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center (TIDC) received a cellphone call from Matej Bosak. Mr. Bosak reported that his uncle, Vladimir Wojnar (55), fell while descending the west side of the Grand Teton. He stated they were near the Upper Saddle and his uncle had lost consciousness and was bleeding from a head wound. I was notified of this incident shortly after 1500. I requested all available Jenny Lake Rangers report to the Rescue Cache and that one of the Teton Interagency Contract Helicopters be staged at Lupine Meadows.

About 1530, I spoke with Mr. Bosak via telephone. He stated that his uncle was conscious but didn’t remember falling. He expressed concern about the bleeding from his uncle’s head wound and wasn’t sure if they could safely descend.

About 1600, Ranger Andy Byerly arrived at the Lower Saddle. He had hiked to the Lower Saddle during a scheduled patrol. Bill Liberatore, a guide for Exum Mountain Guides, offered to help with the rescue. At 1615, Byerly and Liberatore left the Lower Saddle and started climbing toward the accident site. While they were climbing, Rangers Motter and Bywater flew near the west side of the Grand Teton. They confirmed that Bosak and Wojnar were near the bottom of Sergeant’s Chimney, which is a few hundred feet below the summit. After a thorough reconnaissance of the accident site, Motter, Bywater and the helicopter pilot Jon Bourke decided that a short haul extraction from the base of Sergeant’s Chimney was possible. Motter and Bywater were dropped off at the Lower Saddle. They started to climb to the accident site at approximately 1645. Two shuttle flights from Lupine Meadows brought four additional rangers and rescue gear to the Lower Saddle where they staged during the rescue.

Byerly and Liberatore arrived at Sergeant’s Chimney at 1715. Motter and Bywater arrived at 1800. At 1730, Byerly reported that Wojnar had fallen approximately 15 feet and had sustained a head injury, head wound, and a laceration on his right elbow. Wojnar had lost conscious for approximately one minute and had no recollection of the event. Dr. Will Smith listened to Byerly’s full report of the patient’s condition. A group decision was made to move Wojnar approximately 60 feet down to a ledge where he would be extracted via short haul.

After a thorough reconnaissance check flight of the extraction site, a group decision was reached that a short-haul operation was appropriate and a litter and additional medical equipment was short hauled to the site at 1830. The patient was packaged and extracted from the site at 1915. He was flown without a litter attendant to the Lower Saddle.

With the patient at the Lower Saddle, the helicopter returned to Lupine Meadows, where it was changed from a short-haul to an ambulance configuration. It returned to the Lower Saddle where Wojnar was placed into the helicopter and flown to Lupine Meadows. He was transferred to an ambulance, which departed for St John’s Hospital at 2015.

Analysis

I interviewed Matej Bosak during the evening of August 15 at the Rescue Cache at Lupine Meadows. He stated that he and his uncle, Vladimir Wojnar, had camped at the Meadows in Garnet Canyon the night of August 14. They departed the Meadows at 0700 on August 15. Without incident, they climbed the Grand Teton via the Owen Spaulding route. They reached the summit at 1430. During the descent they decided to rappel Sergeant’s Chimney. They only had one Figure-8 descending device, which they planned to share. Bosak rappelled the chimney without incident. He attached the Figure-8 to the end of the rope and Wojnar began pulling up the rope. Bosak heard a noise, looked up and saw Wojnar sliding down the rope only using gloved hands. Bosak then saw him let go of the rope and fall approximately 15 feet.

I later interviewed Vladimir Wojnar, who was at St. John’s Hospital at the time. He wasn’t quite sure what happened, but he seemed to recollect slipping while pulling up the rope with the attached Figure-8. He believes he grabbed the rope when he fell and doesn’t remember anything after that. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and wasn’t attached to the rappel anchor. Wojnar stated that he had climbed the Grand Teton six times.

Perhaps if Mr. Wojnar had been securely attached to the rappel anchor he may not have fallen while pulling the rope with attached Figure-8. Perhaps wearing a helmet may have prevented his head injury. (Source: Ron Johnson, Ranger and Incident Commander)

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