Ailing Climber Rescued from Teewinot Mountain
Contact: Public Affairs Office, 307.739.3393
Just before 9 p.m. on Saturday, August 11, Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued a climber from Teewinot Mountain (elevation 12,325 feet) who was exhibiting acute physical distress. A 53-year-old climber, and resident of Rock Island, Illinois, became ill and incapable of completing a descent from Teewinot after he and two male companions successfully summited the Teton peak early Saturday afternoon.
The climbing party summited Teewinot Mountain about 2:15 p.m. on Saturday. They were making their way back down the mountain and had reached an elevation of about 9,700 feet near two features called the Worshipper and Idol when one of the members of the party began to exhibit a debilitating ailment. The climbers placed an emergency call for help around 6:20 p.m. That call was routed from the Teton County Sheriff's Office to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center, and park rangers were notified of the situation at 6:24 p.m.
Through cell phone conversations with the mountaineers, rangers determined that the ailing climber's condition may be serious. They summoned the assistance of a Teton Interagency contract helicopter to conduct an expedient rescue via short-haul before the 'pumpkin hour' and darkness set in. Although helicopters are often used to facilitate rescues in the Tetons, they are required to stop flying 30 minutes after official sunset: a time known as pumpkin hour. On Saturday, August 11, sunset was 8:31 p.m. and pumpkin hour was at 9:03 p.m. The helicopter was able to shut down operations at the Jackson Hole Airport Helibase at 8:57 p.m., within six minutes of the mandatory time.
Two rangers were inserted via short-haul to the climber's location on Teewinot. The Illinois climber was quickly assessed for his physical complaints, placed into an aerial evacuation suit, and connected to the short-haul line for transport from Teewinot. One ranger accompanied the climber during the short flight to the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache at Lupine Meadows (elevation 6,760 feet). The climber was then met by emergency medical technicians and a park ambulance and transported to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming for further treatment. Once the ailing climber was evacuated by helicopter, the second ranger escorted his two companions out of the backcountry and back to their vehicle.
Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual is suspended below the helicopter on a 100 to 200 foot rope. This method allows a rescuer more direct access to an injured or ailing party, and it is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain. Patients are typically flown out via short-haul with a ranger attending to them below the helicopter, as was the case for this rescue.