Grand Teton National Park’s Jenny Lake Rangers recently conducted two overnight search and rescue efforts. During the first rescue, rangers assisted a climber who slipped and fell on snow while descending the Middle Teton. The second rescue consisted of a helicopter extraction of two climbers who became disoriented and stranded while descending Mt. Moran.
The second and more complex rescue operation began around 2:00 a.m. Tuesday, August 8 when Ron Sloot, 58, of Colfax, WA and Geoff Mitchell, 35, of Spartanburg, SC called for help. After summiting Mt. Moran around 4:30 p.m. Monday, the two climbers began to descend the commonly-used CMC route. Around 9:00 p.m., after the fourth rappel, they realized they had taken a wrong turn, used an old anchor point, and were now off-route. The climbers spent several hours searching in the dark for a traverse, climb, or rappel out of their predicament before calling Teton Interagency Dispatch Center and being connected with the on-call search and rescue coordinator.
After consulting with the stranded climbers, the coordinator advised they stay in their current location until sunrise. Once it became clear the climbers would not be able to self-rescue in the daylight, rangers prepared the Teton Interagency Contract helicopter for short-haul. Unfortunately, inclement weather precluded use of the helicopter until mid-afternoon.
Around 3:00 p.m., a ranger was inserted to the ledge where the two climbers were waiting. After preparing the climbers for the flight, the ranger and climbers were flown out by short-haul and returned to Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache around 3:30 p.m. The two climbers consulted climbing rangers at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station, A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range, and several online sources before beginning their trip.
The first rescue operation began around 5:15 p.m. Monday, August 7, when a patrolling ranger in Garnet Canyon was informed by other mountaineers of an accident which had taken place near the saddle of the south fork of the canyon. Carl Miester, 46, of East Windsor, NJ was descending a snow field near the Middle Teton with five others when he slipped, fell, and slid approximately 50 feet on snow before tumbling across 20 feet of rock and sustaining minor injuries. He did not have an ice ax or helmet.
The ranger responded to the scene, assessed Miester’s injuries, and assisted him down to the Meadows backcountry camping zone where Miester spent the night with his party. Another ranger met up with the party the next morning as they descended the trail and assisted them the rest of the way to Lupine Meadows Trailhead.
Rangers would like to remind hikers and climbers in the Teton Range that an ice ax and experience in its use is still necessary to access many high-elevation areas. As days become shorter in late summer, a keen eye should also be kept on the time and a turn-around time designated so trips can be completed with sufficient daylight. Rangers would also like to thank the many mountaineers and guides who assisted rescue operations and relayed information between rangers and the individuals in need of assistance.
Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual or gear is suspended below the helicopter on a 150 to 250 foot rope. This method allows a rescuer more direct access to an injured party, and it is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain.