Rangers Respond to a Climbing Fatality on the Grand Teton & Injured Hiker in Upper Paintbrush Canyon
Photo by: Jackie Skaggs
Contact: Public Affairs Office, 307.739.3393
A climbing accident on the 13,770-foot Grand Teton resulted in the death of one member of a guided climbing party on Monday morning, July 14 , in Grand Teton National Park. Mary Bilyeu, 43, of Edmond, Oklahoma was ascending to the Upper Saddle of the Grand Teton (elevation 13,160 feet) with her climbing partner and a guide from Jackson Hole Mountain Guides when she fell while negotiating a short section above the Exum Gully about 8:30 a.m.
Grand Teton National Park rangers were notified of the accident at 8:40 a.m. and a rescue response was quickly initiated. Two park rangers on routine patrol at the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton (11,600 feet) climbed to the accident site to begin emergency medical care and prepare the injured climber for a helicopter evacuation. Bilyeu was unresponsive when park rangers arrived on scene and could not be revived. She was pronounced dead in consultation with the park's medical director, Dr. AJ Wheeler, and park rangers on scene. Other Jackson Hole Mountain Guides staff responded to the area and escorted Bilyeu's climbing partner to the Corbet High Camp near the Lower Saddle, and later escorted her to Lupine Meadows trailhead on the valley floor.
The circumstances leading to this climbing accident are under investigation by Grand Teton National Park rangers and no further details are available at this time.
Rangers began to coordinate a body recovery on the Grand Teton when Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a second emergency call at approximately 11 a.m. from a hiking party near Paintbrush Divide. Silas Peterson of Santa Fe, New Mexico fell while descending Paintbrush Divide into Paintbrush Canyon and sustained multiple injuries. Although Peterson was using an ice axe, he slide down a steep snow-covered slope, could not self-arrest, and fell an additional 150 feet through steep loose rock. Peterson's hiking partner called 911 to report the accident. Another party ascending from Paintbrush Canyon witnessed the event and also called 911. That party then hiked to Peterson to provide first aid until rescuers arrived.
A Teton Interagency contract helicopter readied to assist with the rescue operations on the Grand Teton was diverted to transport rescuers to Paintbrush Divide. Two park rangers were short-hauled to the Divide from the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache, and they descended snow and rock to reach Peterson at 11:45 a.m. A rescue litter was also flown to the scene. Peterson was provided emergency medical care and evacuated from Paintbrush Divide via short-haul with a ranger attending. Upon arriving at Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache, Peterson was treated by the park's medical director, Dr. AJ Wheeler, before being transported at approximately 1:15 p.m. via an Air Idaho life-flight helicopter to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho for further medical care. Peterson and his partner were on the final day of a six day Teton Crest Trail backpacking trip.
Both rescue operations were affected by the forecast and subsequent arrival of severe thunderstorms that pummeled the Teton Range and Jackson Hole valeey with lightning strikes and several waves of rain, hail and high winds.
Park rangers remind backcountry hikers that late season snow remains in the high country and some of the mountain passes still have very steep and firm snow that must be cautiously negotiated. Ice axes and crampons may be necessary for safe travel in some areas. Please consult the Teton Canyons blogspot at http://www.tetonclimbing.blogspot.com or stop by a Ranger Station for the most up-to-date trail conditions.