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Avalanche Canyon was the site of the latest rescue in Grand Teton National Park. Five park rangers performed one of the more physically taxing ground based rescues in the last several years during the afternoon and evening of Monday, July 22.
Carol Nielsen, 61, of Boulder Colorado sustained an injury somewhere below the very steep talus slope that runs from Lake Taminah to the bottom of Shosoko Falls in the un-trailed canyon. Teton Interagency Dispatch Center was notified of the injured hiker by cell phone around 5 p.m. Nielsen tried to continue her descent, but her injury made it too challenging for her to bear weight.
Avalanche Canyon has some of the most difficult terrain of any of the mountain canyons in Grand Teton National Park. There is no maintained trail through the canyon so hikers have to "bushwhack" their way through dense marsh and vegetation in the lower part of the canyon. Higher in the canyon, hikers must scramble up long sections of steep scree and boulder fields.
Due to the challenges of the terrain park rangers were unable to use standard rescue devices such as a wheeled litter to carry Nielsen out of Avalanche Canyon. Instead, rescuers traded off physically caring Nielsen on their backs for short segments, slowly making their way down the canyon. Once they reached the maintained trail near Taggart Lake, rangers placed Nielsen in a wheeled litter to carry her the last 2 miles to the trailhead.
Both of the Teton Interagency contact helicopters were out of the valley on fire assignments and unavailable. If the incident had occurred earlier in the day or if Nielsen's injuries had been life threatening rangers would have likely sought assistance from a short-haul capable helicopter.
Park rangers always have a contingency plan in place if they are required to spend the night in the backcountry with an injured person. In this case, rangers were able to successfully complete the rescue Monday night arriving at the trailhead about 11:30 p.m.
This marks the 17th major search and rescue of 2013 in Grand Teton National Park.
Last updated: February 24, 2015