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Grand Teton rangers rescue backcountry skier

NPS Photo of rescue

MOOSE, WY— Park rangers and Teton County Search and Rescue (TCSAR) jointly responded to rescue a stranded backcountry skier on the East Prong of Mount Owen at approximately 10:30 a.m. this morning in Grand Teton National Park.

On Thursday, a local 27-year-old man solo skied a couloir on Disappointment Peak. Afterwards he climbed the Koven Couloir on Mount Owen, planning to ski it, but when he got to the top, he decided he wanted to attempt the Cathedral Traverse in reverse from the top of the Koven Couloir towards Mount Teewinot.

In doing so, the man climbed the East Prong. During this climb, due to its’s technical nature, he realized he would be unable to reverse course and climb back down to the top of the Koven Couloir. The man was not carrying a rope. Once he reached the top of the East Prong, conditions in the mountains began to deteriorate, and the man found himself in whiteout conditions with wayfinding becoming increasingly difficult.

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call around 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening from a backcountry skier who reported he was unable to make it out of the mountains due to whiteout conditions. Park dispatch put the man in touch with a Jenny Lake climbing ranger to discuss his situation and plan accordingly. The man told the ranger he had dug a snow cave on top of the East Prong and would stay in it overnight. He planned to wake up the next morning and make his way down once visibility improved.

Overnight the mountains received over a foot of new snow, making the conditions more hazardous.

Friday morning the man sent a text message to park rangers at approximately 6:30 a.m. to let them know he was awake and doing okay. Rangers advised the man to keep them updated on his progress and his plans for the day.

At 7 a.m. the man called rangers to inform them he would be unable to safely proceed due to the technical and high consequence terrain he was stranded in.

At approximately 10:30 a.m. park rangers and TCSAR jointly responded in the TCSAR helicopter to rescue the man. Rangers and TCSAR short-hauled the man out of the backcountry to the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache. The man was uninjured and able to self-transport.

Rangers want to remind the public that when traveling in technical terrain, it is important to have the means to reverse one’s ascent.

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 a stranded and/or 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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