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MOOSE, WY — A slight misstep on a rocky trail up Blacktail Butte triggered the ground-based rescue of an injured hiker Saturday evening, August 10. Claude Belliot, age 53, of New York State seriously injured her ankle on a steep section of the trail just before 6 p.m. while hiking near the butte's summit with a companion.
Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a re-routed 911 call from the Teton County Sherriff's Office about 6 p.m. on Saturday. A park ranger drove from the Jenny Lake ranger station, some 15 miles away, and hiked up the Blacktail Butte trail to meet Belliot, assess her injury and make arrangements for a ground-based rescue via wheeled litter. Additional park staff were summoned to assist in the rescue, and employees from the park's vegetation management crew, staff from Teton Interagency Fire, and additional rangers from the Gros Ventre subdistrict helped transport Belliot using the wheeled litter.
Due to the steepness and loose rocky surface of the trail, it required seven people to navigate the wheeled litter over a distance of more than one mile and a decline of about one thousand vertical feet from a point near Blacktail Butte's summit, elevation 7,688 feet, to a waiting park ambulance at 6,600 feet on the southern end of Mormon Row Road. Belliot was placed in the park ambulance at 9 p.m. and transported to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson.
Park rangers generally choose to initiate a ground-based rescue whenever an injured person does not have life threatening injuries, and when weather conditions and time of day allow for this option to be effective. Quite often, a ground-based rescue requires numerous park personnel and significant time to execute. Though not as expedient as a helicopter evacuation, a ground-based rescue can be fairly technical in nature and equally difficult under various conditions.