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3 major search and rescue operations in Grand Teton National Park in 24 hours

Regional

MOOSE, Wyoming — Grand Teton National Park Rangers conducted three major search and rescue operations within 24 hours this week.

On Monday, Aug. 8, around 1:30 p.m., Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a report of a disoriented 21-year-old woman at Surprise Lake.

Park rangers were flown via helicopter to a landing zone near Surprise Lake, and the woman was transported via short-haul out of the backcountry to Lupine Meadows, where she was then taken to St. John’s Health Hospital in Jackson, Wyoming.

That same day around 3:30 p.m., the dispatch center received another call from a party reporting their friend, a 22-year-old female, had hurt her back after she jumped into Phelps Lake from the rock feature known as “Jump Rock.”

The woman was apparently unable to walk more than a few steps. Park rangers were flown via helicopter to Phelps Lake to evaluate the woman, and she was then taken to White Grass Ranch where she declined further medical transport.

The next day around 8 a.m., a climber on the traverse between Teewinot Mountain and Mount Owen contacted the dispatch center to report that his climbing partner had taken a several-hundred-foot, unroped fall. The climber had a severe head injury and possibly broken bones.

Park rangers responded via helicopter short-haul to the accident site. The patient, a 24-year-old man, was treated and flown to Lupine Meadows, where an emergency physician, park ambulance crew, and air ambulance crew further stabilized him. The man was then transported via Air Idaho Rescue to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.

When traveling into the backcountry, remember to plan ahead and 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 and carry the equipment, food and water necessary to stay out longer than you expect.

Visit the park website at www.nps.gov/grte to learn more about the park and your planned activity before heading out.

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. 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.

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