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Contact: Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, 307.739.3431
August 20, 2011
Just before dark on Friday August 19, Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued a 28-year-old climber after he became stranded near the top of the Grand Stand below the North Face of the Grand Teton. Jesse Selwyn of Florence, Montana and his climbing partner intended to climb the Black Ice Couloir on the northwest side of the Grand. Selwyn and his companion could not find the entrance to the Black Ice Couloir and got off route. They ended up on the Grand Stand instead.
At 4:55 p.m., the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received notification from the Teton County Sheriff's office that an individual had activated a SPOT rescue locator somewhere on the Grand Teton. Rangers requested a Teton Interagency helicopter to conduct a reconnaissance flight to assess the situation. A ranger inside the helicopter used a white board with the words "OK?" written on it to ask the climbers if they were alright. The climbers gave a thumbs down sign, so rangers responded by writing the words "rescue?" and the climbers gave a thumbs up, indicating they were in trouble and needed help.
Based on the climbers' location, rangers flew inside the helicopter to a landing zone on the west side of Teewinot Mountain. From there, one ranger was inserted via short-haul to Selwyn's location just after 8 p.m. Once on scene, the ranger prepared Selwyn for a short-haul evacuation off the mountain to Lupine Meadows rescue cache on the valley floor. Selwyn was uninjured and released soon after landing. Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual is suspended below the helicopter on a 100 to 200 foot rope. This method allows a rescuer more direct and expedient access to an injured or stranded party; it is often used in the Tetons where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in high-elevation, steep and rocky terrain. Patients are typically flown out via short-haul below the ship with a ranger attending to them, as was the case for this rescue.
After rescuing Selwyn, the helicopter made one last flight to retrieve the other rangers from the landing zone on Teewinot. The ship landed back at Lupine Meadows at 8:47 p.m., just two minutes before it was required to stop flying due to darkness. This time is called the "pumpkin hour," and is 30 minutes after official sunset.
By the time rangers reached Selwyn, his climbing partner had begun to backtrack the route in hopes of reaching the lower saddle before it got too dark to continue. After realizing it was too dark to safely backtrack across the Valhalla Traverse, Selwyn's partner decided to spend the night on the mountain and begin his retreat again at first light on Saturday. The climbing partner reached the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton just before 8:30 a.m. on August 20.
This is the second time in a week that a stranded party has initiated a SPOT locater device in the area. The first came from a pilot who crashed his ultralight aircraft near Fox Creek Pass just outside of Grand Teton National Park in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. While these rescue devices can be valuable tools when used appropriately, rangers remind backcountry users that technical high-mountain rescue carries certain inherent risks for the rescuers and these devices should only be used in a true emergency.
Rangers remind backcountry users that they should be in good physical condition and stick to hikes and routes that are within their ability and comfort levels. Appropriate equipment and the knowledge of how to use it are essential for a safe trip. Hikers and climbers are encouraged to stop in a visitor center or ranger station on the day of travel to obtain the most current trail, route and snow conditions.