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Two different backcountry users—one a climber with serious injuries and the other a hiker suffering physical exhaustion—required separate, late-day rescue missions involving multiple rangers and helicopters on Sunday, June 29, at Grand Teton National Park. At the time the two mountain rescues got underway, rangers were also summoned by Teton County Search and Rescue to assist with a search for missing boaters from an accident on the Gros Ventre River, just east of the park's boundary.
Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received the first emergency call at 5:55 p.m. from two hiking partners of Xabier Aguirregoicoa, 39, of Spain. Aguirregoicoa's companions reported that their friend was exhausted and physically unable to either continue walking out of Granite Canyon (a distance of 12 miles), or hike back upslope to the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort tram from where their backcountry trip began. In the first couple of miles, the hiking party missed the snow-covered trail and instead, dropped down a steep slope, with intermittent snow and loose rock, into a rugged area of large boulders and talus. Aguirregoicoa's partners retraced their route over hard and crusty snow to reach the top of Rendezvous Mountain and make their call for help. They also provided GPS coordinates for Aguirregoicoa's location, which greatly facilitated the rescue operation.
A Teton Interagency contract helicopter was dispatched to an area just below Cardiac Ridge in upper Granite Canyon with two park rangers on board. Despite erratic winds, the ship was able to land on a patch of snow near Aguirregoicoa. He was assisted across the snowfield to the waiting helicopter for an evacuation to Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache where rangers assessed his overall health and released him. Aguirregoicoa was not adequately prepared for the snowy conditions that persist in this area of Granite Canyon. He wore just light hiking shoes and carried only hiking poles, where conditions demanded sturdy hiking boots and ice axes for safer travel.
Shortly after the first alert, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a second emergency call at 6:30 p.m., reporting an injured climber on the east flank of the 11,618-foot Disappointment Peak. Angela Lazarte, 27, of Jackson, Wyoming and her partner were climbing in the Lake Ledges area above Amphitheater Lake when she slipped and tumbled over snow and rock before coming to rest in a snow moat near the base of the cliff. A second Teton Interagency contract helicopter flew six park rangers to provide emergency medical care and make preparations for a short-haul evacuation. To assist with the rescue, four additional rangers hiked to Amphitheater Lake (9,750 feet) from the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache. High winds ultimately prevented the helicopter from completing a short-haul evacuation. Instead, rangers resorted to placing Lazarte into a rescue litter and lowering her over steep, snow-covered slopes until they could carry her via wheeled litter—a distance of five miles—over an intermittent snow-covered and rocky trail to the Lupine Meadows trailhead. The rescue operation took over 10 hours to conduct; it did not conclude until 5 a.m. Monday, June 30. A park ambulance met the rescuers and transported Lazarte to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson for further care. Lazarte was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, which may have prevented a head injury.
Because the two Teton Interagency contract helicopters were involved in the Teton Range rescue missions, two Grand Teton rangers assisted Teton County Search and Rescue personnel with a ground-based search and rescue for a missing boater from the Gros Ventre River accident reported around 6:15 p.m. That rescue mission was somewhat resolved with all boaters accounted for at 9:45 p.m. on Sunday evening; however the evacuation of one stranded and injured boater required additional time.
Earlier in the day, five park rangers also conducted a wheeled litter evacuation of a 64 year-old man who suffered a rib injury after he fell from a horse while riding on the Colter Bay area trail system.
Last updated: February 24, 2015