Grand Teton National Park Rangers Conduct Three Major Rescues in Less Than 24 Hours

by Jon D. B.

Using the short-haul technique, Grand Teton National Park rangers were able to save three young visitors in less than 24 hours time.

As park officials define, short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual or individuals, often with gear, are suspended below the helicopter on a 150 to 250 foot rope. And Grand Teton National Park Rangers used the live-saving technique in three major search and rescue operations within 24 hours this week, the park cites in their latest media release.

The first came on Monday, August 8. At approximately 1:30 PM, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center would receive a report of a disoriented 21-year-old female at Grand Teton’s Surprise Lake. Park rangers were immediately flown via the Teton Interagency helicopter to a landing zone near Surprise Lake. Approaching the patient on foot, they found she needed to be transported via short-haul out of the backcountry.

She was taken to Lupine Meadows via helicopter, from where she was transported via ambulance to St. John’s Health – and her life was saved.

With helicopter-based short-haul, rescuers have direct access to an injured party, which is critical in the steep, rocky terrain of the Teton Range. The park often uses the technique for Search & Rescue, as much of Grand Teton National Park is inaccessible via helicopter landing.

Just Two Hours Later…

There was little time for rangers to recoup, as the next distress call came in at approx. 3:30 PM Monday afternoon. Just two hours after their first rescue call, a visitor reported their friend, a 22-year-old female, had hurt her back after jumping into Phelps Lake via “Jump Rock,” a popular feature in Grand Teton.

Unable to walk more than a few steps at a time, park rangers flew the young visitor via helicopter to Phelps Lake for evaluation. There, it was determined she needed to be transported via short-haul to White Grass Ranch.

Cabin under cloudy skies of Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Photo by: Visions of America/Joe Sohm/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Hopefully the young woman is okay, as she declined further medical transport at that time. This allowed for a reprieve for park rangers, but it wouldn’t last long.

Third Grand Teton Rescue in 24 Hours Comes in at 8 AM

First-thing Tuesday morning, a climber traversing Teewinot Mountain to Mount Owen fell several-hundred-feet, un-roped, off the side of their incline. His climbing partner called Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at approx. 8 AM, reporting their friend’s “severe head injury, and possibly broken bones in his extremities,” the park’s release cites.

Park rangers immediately responded via the Teton Interagency helicopter and placed four rangers and rescue gear via helicopter short-haul to the accident site. The injured visitor, a 24-year-old male, was then treated and flown to Lupine Meadows.

There, an emergency physician, park ambulance crew, and air ambulance crew further stabilized the climber. He was then transported via Air Idaho Rescue to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center for further care.

As this beyond-intense 24-hour period shows, August is a busy time for Grand Teton National Park search and rescue personnel. Backcountry activity increases in the Tetons in the summer, and it is imperative that all visitors brush up on safety information ahead of visiting.

Grand Teton National Park’s ‘Basic’ Backcountry Safety Recommendations

When traveling into the Grand Teton backcountry, remember to plan ahead. And always follow these basic recommendations:

  • Set a reasonable objective based on your group’s experience
    • When planning a hike or climb, make sure it is well within the abilities of your least experienced group member
  • Know the weather forecast and be prepared for rain, snow, ice, and cold
    • Temperatures and precipitation patterns can change rapidly in the high elevations of the Tetons
  • Pay special attention when descending and moving across slippery surfaces
    • Most mountain accidents occur on the descent.
  • Don’t be afraid to turn around
    • “Summit fever” can be the greatest hazard of all.
  • Research your intended route by consulting topographic maps, guidebooks, and rangers
  • Always tell a friend or family member your route, and when you intend to return
  • Be prepared to care for yourself or your partner in case of an injury
    • Carry the equipment, food and water necessary to stay out longer than you expect

Stay safe out there, Outsiders. Be sure to visit Grand Teton National Park’s NPS website for further information ahead of any visit.

For more on the park itself, see our Top 10 Things to Know About Grand Teton National Park next.