Grand Teton Rangers Rescue Climber Who Fell
Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued a snow climber from Wilson who fell after slipping on snow while descending the southeast ridge of Disappointment Peak on Monday, according to a news release from the park.
Rangers responded quickly and took Robert Henderson, 68, to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson.
Two hikers in the Amphitheater Lake area saw Henderson fall about 1:30 p.m.
They called the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center to report the accident. Henderson's climbing partner, Dan Matzke of Moose, also called the dispatch center to report Henderson lost his footing and slid on the snow before disappearing from view.
Henderson’s fall carried him 400 feet downhill, including a 60- to 80 foot cliff, to a location with snow and trees about 300 feet above Amphitheater Lake.
A ranger who was climbing on Disappointment Peak joined Matzke, assisted him on the technical descent to Amphitheater Lake, and reached Henderson about 3 pm. The ranger assessed Henderson, who was alert but sustained leg and shoulder injuries. Matzke continued downhill with a bystander.
At 4:20 p.m., the Teton Interagency Contract Helicopter sent two rangers to Henderson’s location. They loaded Henderson into a rescue litter and prepared him for extraction by a short-haul technique in which an individual or gear is suspended below a helicopter on a 150- to 250-foot rope. This allows a rescuer more direct access to an injured party. Rescuers often use it in the Tetons where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain.
One ranger stayed with Henderson during the short flight to the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache at 5:11 p.m. He was transferred to a park ambulance and taken to the hospital. The helicopter retrieved the remaining two rangers.
Henderson and Matzke were prepared to climb on snow and had the necessary gear to do so, But rangers recognize many visitors to the Tetons may not be expecting wintertime conditions in June.
Rangers advise that elevations above 9,000 feet mostly are still covered with snow. Appropriate knowledge and experience using an ice ax and crampons is necessary for traversing steep terrain.