Climber Falls Into Grand Teton Ice Crevasse Over Weekend

in News/Recreation

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Evanston man was rescued over the weekend by Grand Teton National Park staff after he fell into an ice crevasse.

The Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a “fall into crevasse” notification from a satellite communication device around 10:30 p.m. Friday.

The message included some GPS coordinates that indicated the incident occurred near Teton Glacier. Despite additional attempts to establish two-way communication with the reporting party, no more information was provided.

Two park rangers began hiking to the glacier around 12:30 a.m. and located the injured party and his hiking party around 4 a.m. They also found another climbing party of two that was in the area and assisting with the injured climber.

Evanston resident Tyler Willis, 34, and his climbing partner had successfully summited Mount Owen earlier in the day. They were descending via the Koven Route and were crossing the Teton Glacier when Willis fell about 30 feet into a narrow ice crevasse.

Two other climbers in the area used their satellite communication device to call for help and then set anchors and used a rope raising system to extricate Willis from the crevasse.

Willis had been in the crevasse for more than an hour before the other party of two came on scene to assist. His condition had significantly deteriorated due to hypothermia and he was unresponsive.

After extricating Willis, the three climbers replaced his wet clothing with dry clothing.

When rangers arrived on scene, they provided medical care and began a re-warming treatment, including adding additional insulating layers to warm Willis.

Willis’ condition slowly improved over the next few hours.

 At approximately 8 a.m. Saturday, Willis was transported to Lupine Meadows via short haul rescue by the Teton Interagency Helicopter and he was then taken by Air Idaho Rescue to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The three other climbers were transported to Lupine Meadows by helicopter.

Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual or individuals, often with gear, are suspended below a 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.

Teton Glacier is the largest of eleven glaciers in Grand Teton National Park. It is located below the north face of the Grand Teton and is approximately 50 acres in size.

Glaciers are dynamic and always moving. Anyone climbing near glaciers should always be very cautious and expect glacial features including crevasses.

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