Backcountry Hiker Rescued from Webb Canyon in Northern Teton Range

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Date: July 18, 2013
Contact: Pubic Affairs Office, 307.739.3393

Just before 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 18, Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued a 27-year-old man who injured his foot while hiking in Webb Canyon located in the northern portion of the Teton Range. Michael Zinke of Solvang, California was with a large group of people who intended to traverse the Teton Range over the course of several days from Webb Canyon to String Lake trailhead. 

Approximately 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 17, Zinke glissaded down a snowfield and had traveled approximately 50 feet when he struck a boulder with his foot in an attempt to stop. Zinke did not carry an ice axe and tried to self-arrest with one of his trekking poles, instead. Although the incident occurred mid-morning, Zinke and his party continued hiking their planned route until he could no longer apply pressure to his injured foot and the party was forced to stop. 

At 7:25 Wednesday evening, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call from a representative with the International Dispatch Center who reported that an individual activated a SPOT personal locator somewhere in Webb Canyon. All together, the International Dispatch Center received four "911" messages from that SPOT device over the next 11 hours. 

Because SPOT locators do not allow for two-way communication, park rangers were not able to determine the nature of the emergency, and because of the late hour, rangers were not able to arrange for a reconnaissance flight before nightfall. Therefore, plans were made to summon a Teton Interagency contract helicopter for a flight at first light on Thursday morning to locate the caller and determine the emergency. 

Rangers boarded the Teton Interagency contract helicopter early Thursday morning and flew to the area where the SPOT device had registered latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. At 8:05 a.m., rangers in the helicopter spotted the hiking party, and were able to land nearby to assess the situation and begin a rescue. Rangers provided emergency medical care to the injured Zinke and placed him in the ship for evacuation to a temporary landing zone established just south of Colter Bay. Zinke was then transferred to a park ambulance for transport to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming. 

SPOT devices utilize satellites in order to communicate. The device allows hikers, climbers and other recreators a way to contact a central response coordination center in the event of an emergency, and when cell phones and other communication devices are ineffective. In Zinke's case, he utilized his SPOT device to send out a "911" signal which was sent to an International Dispatch Center that notified Teton Interagency Dispatch Center located at Grand Teton National Park's headquarters campus in Moose, Wyoming. 

Rangers remind backcountry users to be prepared for emergencies and take personal responsibility for the welfare of each member of the party. Often in the event of an accident, hikers or climbers must depend first on themselves and their own party. Factors such as weather, darkness, or unexpected hazards may delay or even prevent an organized rescue response.  Rangers also urge inexperienced hikers and climbers to obtain instruction and experience in proper ice axe technique (self-arrest and self-belay) before tackling routes that require potentially hazardous snowfield crossings.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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