Grand Teton National Park Rangers responded to the first major search and rescue incident of the season late Thursday, June 30. Two hikers, Michael Kramer, 27, of Miami, Florida and Tiffany Morhaim, 26, of North Miami Beach, Florida, were on a day hike of Cascade and Paintbrush Canyons. They ventured off trail and found themselves lost in Leigh Canyon. They activated a satellite personal locator device when they realized they were lost and not prepared to spend a night in the backcountry.
Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received notification at 9:35 p.m. Thursday night that a satellite personal locator device had been activated in Leigh Canyon near the drainage below Grizzly Bear Lake. Jenny Lake Rangers responded to the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache at Lupine Meadows to determine what rescue efforts would be possible given the late hour. Darkness eliminated the possibility of a helicopter flight, and the very rugged and densely vegetated terrain of Leigh Canyon, which contains no maintained trails, would have slowed a ground-based rescue effort. A second satellite location received at 9:51 p.m. indicated the party had moved locations and was likely uninjured, thereby reducing the urgency of the rescue effort.
Jenny Lake Rangers were joined by the Teton Interagency Contract Helicopter early Friday morning to begin a reconnaissance flight. After the first flight failed to find the lost hikers, rangers received an updated satellite location further down Leigh Canyon. A second flight found the two hikers who were waving for a rescue. The helicopter was able to land nearby and rangers contacted the hikers and assessed the situation. The exhausted hikers were flown out of the backcountry at 10:00 a.m.
Backcountry travelers are reminded that hikes in high elevation areas of the Teton Mountain Range at this time of year require knowledge and experience crossing snow, an ice axe, and mountain route-finding skills. Those traveling deep into the backcountry should be prepared to spend the night even if they do not plan to, and carry extra food, a flashlight or headlamp, and a map. Helicopter-based rescues are not always possible given time of day, weather, and availability of rescue resources.