Climber falls from Teton peak
By Richard Anderson, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
July 23, 2012
Grand Teton National Park rangers spotted a motionless body on the north side of the Middle Teton after receiving a report that a climber had fallen from the 12,804-foot summit about midday Sunday.
Rangers saw the victim during a reconnaissance flight after he was believed to have fallen down the Northwest Couloir. The man did not respond to the rescuers’ helicopter.
Officials had not identified the climber by press time Sunday evening.
He will remain on the mountain overnight, park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.
Rangers were still gathering details Sunday as climbers involved worked their way off the peak in wet, sometimes violently stormy weather, Skaggs said. She provided the following details:
The victim and his two friends were presumed to have climbed the peak via the Southwest Couloir, she said. The party of three had summited and was beginning its descent when the accident occurred. The victim’s two partners seemed to have not noticed their third had fallen.
Members of a second party atop the peak began calling to them that their companion had disappeared down the Northwest Couloir, Skaggs said.
“We believe they came up the Southwest Couloir,” the most common route up the peak, Skaggs said, “but he fell down the Northwest Couloir. But that’s all still our best guess.”
Skaggs said she understood the remaining climbers looked into the couloir in an attempt to locate and, if possible, reach the fallen climber. They were unable to make contact with him.
The second party made a 911 call via cellphone, and Teton Interagency Dispatch was notified around noon, Skaggs said. Rangers flew a spotting mission and were able to see the body of a climber. They also attempted to reach him by foot, she said.
Skaggs said rangers believe he had fallen about 1,000 vertical feet and that he was “presumed severely injured or worse,” she said.
“They tried making arrangements to get rangers inserted to the location on the mountain,” Skaggs said, “but weather prevented that flight.
“As hard as it is to leave someone in a place like that, the safety of the rescuers is of paramount concern,” Skaggs said. “The decision was made to leave him there tonight and to attempt recovery [Monday] morning.”
Skaggs could not say if weather played a role in the accident. A powerful storm with rain, lightning and thunder pushed through the area in the early to mid afternoon, drenching Jackson.
She said the fallen climber was from California, but she did not know more about the other members of either party.
“They got down on their own,” Skaggs said, but as of press time they had not been debriefed by park rangers.