August 28, 2008
A full-scale search for a lost hiker took place on Wednesday evening, August 27 and Thursday morning, August 28, west of Jenny Lake in the Hidden Falls/Inspiration Point area of Grand Teton National Park. Charles “Chuck” Mastny, age 54, from Lakeland, Minnesota, was hiking with his wife, Stephanie, on Wednesday afternoon when he left her at 2:30 p.m. to “do some exploring” while she read a book near a boulder field at Hidden Falls. Searchers located Mastny at 11:10 a.m. on Thursday as he was making his way out of Cascade Canyon toward Jenny Lake after spending a frosty night in the Teton backcountry without shelter and wearing only a T-shirt, long pants and sandals. Nearly 65 searchers—Grand Teton National Park personnel, Teton interagency fire staff, Teton County Wyoming Search and Rescue volunteers, an interagency contract helicopter, and three dog teams from Wyoming K-9 Search and Rescue—took part in the major search effort.
When Mastny failed to return to the Hidden Falls area by 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Stephanie became concerned and quickly hiked to the west shore boat dock to report that he was overdue. Jenny Lake Boating made a call to Teton Interagency Dispatch at about 6:00 p.m. to report the situation, and park rangers immediately initiated a hasty search of the area. A team of 13 rangers scoured the area on foot, but were unable to locate Mastny before sunset. With darkness falling, the hasty search was halted and plans were made to resume a full-scale search beginning at first light on Thursday morning. Rangers also summoned the assistance of an interagency helicopter to provide aerial search capabilities the next morning.
Mastny apparently became so engrossed in scrambling up the boulder field to the south of Hidden Falls, that time got away from him Wednesday afternoon. When he decided to turn around and retrace his path, he realized that he was uncomfortably high, and that it was not safe to return the way he had come. He started to traverse along the top of the boulder field to find a safer way down. Darkness ultimately overtook him, and wearing prescription sunglasses, he eventually sat down to rest and sleep before dawn would provide better light. He also found a bank of snow and ate some for moisture. The next morning, he was able to pick his way across more boulders and through thick vegetation to eventually cross Cascade Creek at a point well into the mouth of Cascade Canyon. A park ranger who was searching the Cascade Canyon trail met up with other hikers who recognized Mastny from a photograph he showed them. They told the ranger that they had met Mastny just a few minutes before, and had given him a candy bar to eat. The ranger quickly caught up to Mastny and confirmed that he was the missing person—the focus of the search.
While this incident had a positive outcome, it could have easily resulted in injury or worse. Rangers remind backcountry travelers that they should be prepared for any hike by carrying food, water, a map, and extra clothing in the event that they are forced to spend an unexpected night out in the backcountry due to injury or being lost. Rangers also recommend that visitors stay on trails and hike in groups of two or more people.