MOOSE, WY- Grand Teton National Park Rangers conducted a rescue operation over the past weekend. Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received an emergency call from a climber that was stranded on the Middle Teton at approximately 7:45 p.m. Saturday, September 7.
The climber, 28-year old Deidre DeSantis from Oakdale, Pennsylvania, who works in the area, was climbing the Middle Teton with a friend. The two individuals separated in the South Fork of Garnet Canyon and did not see each other again. After a successful summit, DeSantis got off route on descent, began down climbing a loose gully, and slipped on snow and fell approximately 30 feet. She sustained minor injuries and was stranded on a very small ledge that was located in a steep, narrow couloir with occasional rock fall around her.
Park rangers were in contact with DeSantis via phone, but she was unaware of her location and her phone did not provide any GPS coordinates. At approximately 9 p.m., two rangers began hiking to the general area they believed she was located. Rangers were able to make voice contact with DeSantis at 12:30 a.m., but due to the faint calls and echoing canyon walls, were unable to pinpoint her location. Rangers maintained verbal communications and off-and-on phone communications with her throughout the night and into the early morning, as they continued to try and locate her.
Due to forecasted weather conditions, additional rangers began hiking to the area before daylight early Sunday morning. At first light, the Teton Interagency helicopter was able to make a reconnaissance flight and located DeSantis when they saw the light from her headlamp. Her location was off any route that was anticipated by rangers, and they found that she had descended the South Couloir of the Middle Teton just west of the Buckingham Ridge. Rangers were fortunate to insert a single rescuer near the scene via helicopter short-haul at approximately 8:15 a.m. before severe weather grounded aerial operations. Weather and low clouds thwarted additional attempts at short-haul extraction. Three additional rangers and equipment were flown to the South Fork of Garnet Canyon shortly after 11 a.m. with a plan to hike and climb to the area and assist with a ground-based rescue.
Once on scene with DeSantis, rangers were able to assess her injuries and safely use ropes and technical rescue gear to raise her several hundred feet toward the summit of the Middle Teton. A brief weather window opened allowing the helicopter to safely access the area. DeSantis and a ranger were short-hauled to Lupine Meadows at approximately 3 p.m. A medical evaluation was conducted. DeSantis was extremely exhausted and cold. A friend of DeSantis transported her home.
Park visitors are encouraged to hike and climb with a partner, including staying together and making decisions together. Set reasonable objectives within the skill and experience level of the group. Consulting topographic maps, guidebooks, and park rangers will help determine route difficulty and the skill level needed.
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 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.