Major Search Conducted for Lost Hiker Near Hidden Falls

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.

Fall Ranger-led Programs to Begin in Grand Teton National Park

August 26, 2008
Several ranger-led programs are scheduled for the upcoming fall season. These programs will begin on Tuesday, September 2, 2008. Residents and visitors alike may learn about geology, history, and wildlife while enjoying autumn in the park, when colorful foliage and seasonal wildlife behavior reach their peak.

The fall schedule includes:
· Inspiration Point Hike, a 2.5-hour hike to Hidden Falls and view above Jenny Lake, 9:30 a.m. daily. Obtain tokens at Jenny Lake Visitor Center and meet at the flagpole. Boat ride costs $9.50 for adults.
· Explore the Preserve Hike, a 2.5-hour hike to Phelps Lake to experience the pristine setting of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, 9:30 a.m. daily. Reservations recommended. Call 307.739.3654.
· Autumn Stroll, a 2.5-hour hike along the scenic Taggart Lake trail, 9:30 a.m. daily from Taggart Lake trailhead on the Teton Park Road.
· Glimpses of the Grand Teton, a 30-minute talk about geology and park wildlife, 11 a.m. daily at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Wheelchair accessible.
· Teton Highlights, a 30-minute travel planner, 11 a.m. daily in Colter Bay Visitor Center auditorium. Wheelchair accessible.
· Autumn at the Preserve, a chat about fall changes in wildlife and plants, 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily on the porch of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center. Wheelchair accessible.
· Walk into the Past, a 45-minute stroll around Menor's Ferry historic district near the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, 1:30 p.m. daily from Menor’s Ferry General Store. Wheelchair accessible.
· Building Green, a 30-minute talk about the innovative design and sustainable features of the new Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center, 2 p.m. daily at the LSR Preserve Center.
· Wildlife You May Know, a 30-minute talk on Grand Teton’s diverse wildlife, 2:30 p.m. daily, at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Wheelchair accessible.
· Museum Grand Tour, a 45-minute tour of the David T. Vernon Indian Arts Exhibit, 3 p.m. daily in the Colter Bay Visitor Center and Indian Arts Museum.
· Wildlife Caravan, a 3-hour wildlife auto-tour, 5-8 p.m. daily from the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Limited to 10 vehicles, reservations are required. Reserve a space at the CTDVC or call 739.3399. Ride sharing encouraged. Dress warmly and bring binoculars or spotting scopes.
· Wildlife Watch at Oxbow Bend, a 90-minute wildlife watch offered at 6 p.m. daily at Oxbow Bend Scenic Turnout. Bring binoculars, cameras and questions. Wheelchair accessible.
· Jenny Lake Twilight Talk, 45-minute ranger talk, 6:30 p.m. daily at Jenny Lake Campground Circle.
· Evening Campfire Program, a 45-minute illustrated ranger talk presented 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at the Colter Bay amphitheater. Dress warmly. Wheelchair accessible.

Fall programs will be offered through September 30; however, the schedule is subject to change. For weekly updates on program changes or further information on any of the listed activities, please call either the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center at 307.739.3399 or the Colter Bay Visitor Center at 307.739.3594. The Craig Thomas, Colter Bay, Jenny Lake and Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve visitor centers are open daily during the month of September. While the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center is open year-round, the Jenny Lake Visitor Center closes for the season on September 27 and the Colter Bay and Rockefeller Preserve visitor centers will both close for the season on October 13.

Interagency Fire Managers Increase Fire Danger Rating to Very High

August 25, 2008
Teton interagency fire managers raised the fire danger rating back to Very High on Monday, August 25, as a result of dry conditions, hot temperatures, and curing vegetation. In addition, the National Weather Service has also issued a red flag warning, effective from noon Monday through 6 a.m. Tuesday, August 26, due to high temperatures, low humidity, strong winds and the potential for dry lightning.

“The very high fire danger rating reflects a seasonal drying of vegetation in the low- and mid-elevation areas,” said Ron Steffens, fire use monitor for Grand Teton National Park. “After an exceptionally snowy winter and wet spring, we’ve seen below average rainfall in northwest Wyoming this summer.”

Recent fires in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park area have resulted from people leaving smoldering campfires or discarding lit cigarettes. Fire managers remind visitors to smoke only in areas of cleared of vegetation and to ensure campfires are completely out and cold to the touch before leaving them.

To report either smoke or a fire, please call 307.739.3630. For further information about fires in the greater Jackson Hole area, please contact Bridger-Teton National Forest at 307.739.5500 or visit

Mountain Pine Beetles Affect Lodgepole and Whitebark Pines

Red Trees Conspicuous in Grand Teton

August 21, 2008
A number of red-colored trees interspersed throughout the conifer forests of Grand Teton National Park have captured the attention of visitors and local residents and prompted many questions about what is happening. These conspicuous red trees stem from a cyclic, natural phenomenon caused by mountain pine beetles, a native insect whose activities kill individual lodgepole and whitebark pine trees by damaging the phloem layer and cutting off the flow of water and nutrients between the roots and needles. Periodic outbreaks of mountain pine beetles play an important ecological role in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and are central to the life cycle of western forests.

The mountain pine beetle—the most common bark beetle and a natural part of forest ecosystems in western North America ranging from Mexico to British Columbia—evolved with lodgepole pines over the millennia. Climate plays a role in the proliferation of beetles, and warmer air temperatures of recent years have allowed bark beetles numbers to expand into higher elevation ecosystems, as well as to flourish where they have historically occurred. Vast numbers of beetles are needed to kill a single tree, and beetle numbers are sustained by the availability of suitable hosts, such as drought-weakened trees, as well as by mild winters that ensure successful beetle reproduction. While hearty pines typically use their resin as a defense against the boring activities of beetles, trees can become overwhelmed by prolific beetle outbreaks. Periodic increases of this insect, and the subsequent tree mortality, are part of a naturally occurring cycle. In fact, similar beetle infestations occurred throughout the Rocky Mountain West and in Grand Teton National Park during the 1930s and 1960s. Biologists and ecologists acknowledge that mountain pine beetle outbreaks help to create a mosaic of forest types and ages, and to maintain nutrient and energy cycling in a natural ecosystem, much like other natural events: fires, avalanches and microburst winds that topple large tracts of trees.

Currently, beetle-affected trees are most prevalent in mid-elevation lodgepole pine forests. This year, Grand Teton National Park is attempting to reduce beetle infestations in some key visitor use and developed areas by hanging white pouches containing a pheromone called verbenone on selected trees. Two pouches per tree (or 40 per acre) send a chemical message that a specific tree, or a general area, is already saturated with beetles; the pheromone application may reduce the likelihood that additional trees will be attacked. Lodgepole pines chosen for this treatment include: trees that are located in high visitor use or administrative areas where lodgepole pine is the predominant tree species; trees that were preserved during construction projects; and trees that contribute to the character of a specific area, such as picnic sites. The success and value of this strategy will be tracked and further assessed in the fall of 2008.

In the Jackson area, mountain pine beetles began attacking high-elevation whitebark pine forests about four years ago. Impacts to this species are extensive and ongoing. Park biologists are also using verbenone pouches to try to protect small numbers of individual whitebark pines that appear to be genetically more resistant to white pine blister rust, thereby preserving the seed source for the future. In the past, the high-elevation environment of the whitebark pine prevented mountain pine beetle from becoming abundant enough to kill more than a few trees at a time. However, warmer winters and longer growing seasons related to climate change have allowed the beetles to produce many more offspring in a faster period of time. Park biologists will also monitor the effectiveness of pheromone use among whitebark pine stands.

While the mountain pine beetle activity in whitebark pine ecosystems is atypical, the effects of beetles on local lodgepole pine forests are more common. There is some concern that an abundance of beetle-killed trees may increase the risk of wildland fires. Although extensive stands of dead trees can be flammable, current research suggests that once the red needles have fallen from the dead trees, the fire risk may be reduced in some situations.

Grand Teton National Park Conducts Commercial Vehicle Safety Inspections

Tour buses lined up for vehicle safety inspections

August 19, 2008
Commercial vehicle safety inspections conducted during Tuesday, August 12, and Wednesday, August 13 in Grand Teton National Park resulted in the discovery of several violations on commercial vehicles traveling through the park. A full-level inspection evaluates both the driver and the commercial vehicle to ensure full compliance with the federal regulations that govern these vehicles. Last week’s inspections were unannounced and focused on commercial buses and trucks.

Safety inspections were conducted through an interagency effort by Grand Teton National Park rangers, Federal Motor Carrier Administration personnel, and Wyoming Highway Patrol officers. A complete safety inspection station was assembled in Colter Bay Village, and every commercial vehicle traveling on Highway 89/287 through the park was diverted through the inspection station by federal and state officers. Vehicles inspected included passenger vans operated by local hotels for touring guests, vans operated by bicycle tour companies, commercial passenger buses, delivery vehicles, construction vehicles, and one commercial well drilling truck that was illegally traveling through the park. A total of 45 commercial vehicles were checked for safety issues that could lead to motor vehicle accidents, injuries to passengers and others, and/or resource damage to the park.

The inspections resulted in five vehicles being parked because their drivers had worked too many hours or had failed to properly log their hours worked. One bus operation was suspended until emergency exits could be repaired, and three other buses were taken out of service due to tire, brake and steering failures—two of these buses were operated by the same company, which had to arrange to have their buses towed from the park as they were unsafe to operate. In addition, one delivery truck was taken out of service until the brakes were repaired.

A total of 21 warnings were issued for seatbelt violations, and one person was issued a violation notice and mandatory court appearance for possession of a controlled substance.

This was the first time in several years that an interagency inspection program took place in the park. As safety violations are identified and addressed, it is expected that commercial vehicle operators and companies will improve their safety operations.

Free Screening of Don’t Move a Mussel at Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park

Mussels encrust shopping cart submerged in a lake

August 19, 2008
Grand Teton National Park will host a free screening of a film titled Don’t Move a Mussel in the Colter Bay Visitor Center auditorium at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, August 22. The 46-minute-long film, created by Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, is open to the general public.

Don’t Move a Mussel was made possible through a collaborative effort between state and federal agencies and organizations working together under the 100th Meridian Initiative—an effort to prevent the spread of exotic species of mussels into the western United States. Major funding was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The film is arranged in two parts. The first portion provides background information about the invasion of quagga and zebra mussels from the eastern United States into additional states; it explains their origins, distribution, biology and transport routes and outlines the impacts these non-native species could have on various regions of the country. This segment also contains ideas about how to avoid spreading and exacerbating the problem of exotic species such as quagga and zebra mussels and how to prevent their adverse impacts. The second part of the film teaches viewers about watercraft inspection and decontamination. This pragmatic segment includes detailed demonstrations of the inspection and decontamination processes.

The screening should be of particular interest to boat owners, to those who enjoy water recreation across the western states, and to anyone who is concerned about the impacts of exotic species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and other vulnerable areas.

Greater Yellowstone Coalition Partners with Grand Teton National Park to Protect Wildlife

Wildlife Brigade Monitors "Bear Jam" at Willow Flats

August 18, 2008
In 2007, Grand Teton National Park established the Wildlife Brigade—a team of park rangers and citizen volunteers—to help manage human-wildlife interactions and to increase food storage compliance at park campgrounds and picnic sites through public contact and education efforts. This newly created wildlife-protection squad is thriving in its second year of operation thanks in part to the generosity of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) which provided funding for two positions with the 2008 brigade.

This year’s Wildlife Brigade team consists of three full-time National Park Service employees, three full-time volunteers, four part-time volunteers, and two full-time GYC internship positions. Although working in a variety of park settings, the team’s primary job is to educate the public about responsible and ethical interactions with park wildlife. These individuals spend their days assisting with traffic flow and people management at roadside “wildlife jams” and conducting patrols in developed areas to look for unsecured food and other bear attractants. They also provide visitor education at trailheads and on popular trails, offer interpretive education to park visitors about wildlife and other park resources, and collect wildlife and visitor use data.

Grand Teton National Park was able to supply limited funding for members of the Wildlife Brigade; however, additional positions became possible through volunteer help and the welcome funding provided by the GYC—a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the lands, waters, and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The GYC recognized the importance of this new wildlife protection program and partnered with Grand Teton to help ensure its success. As a part of the pilot project, GYC funded two former University of Montana students, Ariel Blotkamp and Lee Rademaker, for the 2008 season. Blotkamp graduated from the University of Montana in 2006 with a degree in recreation resource management, and spent two summers in Glacier National Park researching the park’s new transportation shuttle system. Rademaker completed undergraduate work in 2005 in recreation resource management at the University of Montana, and earned a Master’s degree, also in recreation management, studying interpretive technology in parks.

Blotkamp says she very much appreciates the role non-profits like the GYC play in conservation. About her job with the brigade, she commented: “I like talking with so many different people from across the country and the world while traveling around the park to keep wildlife safe. I also love being a part of someone’s first wild bear sighting; their enthusiasm and appreciation for the bears makes me smile every time. I feel that this love of the bears and the park, and this face-to-face experience, are what drives the protection of the resources.” Rademaker concurs, saying that there are few situations more exciting than a wildlife jam. “Everyone, from the visitors to the volunteers and staff working the jam become so focused in the moment, so engaged in the excitement. I know they won’t ever forget their experience with the animals.” He added: “After six years of class work, it is nice to ‘ground truth’ some of what I learned.”

The two brigade members are excited to gain experience working for the NPS, since they both hope to one day obtain full-time positions with the agency.

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott praised the value of the Wildlife Brigade and commended the GYC’s support. “The brigade has become an essential component of this park’s wildlife management. It is crucial that we educate visitors about how to properly behave around wildlife, in order to keep both people and animals safe,” she said. She also said the new partnership with the GYC is a great example of how the park can work with other agencies and organizations to enhance resource protection in this ecosystem. “It demonstrates the ideological common ground that we share with the GYC. We are both concerned with maintaining diverse and healthy wildlife populations, with providing recreational opportunities, and with sustaining the ecological processes that make the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem unique.” Both the park and GYC are guided by similar missions to preserve and protect this fragile ecosystem for future generations.

The Wildlife Brigade was launched in response to growing concerns for wildlife protection in the park. Thriving wildlife populations and a rising number of visitors to the park means a greater potential for interface between people and wildlife. Increased visibility of wildlife in the park—especially highlighted by the presence of bear #399 and her three cubs, that frequently use habitat near park roadsides—has also increased the incidence of wildlife jams. One of the primary responsibilities for members of the brigade is to educate both visitors and local residents about responsibly sharing habitat with wild animals.

Wildlife Brigade Patrol Park Campground for Food Storage Violations

Human-Caused Fire near Jenny Lake Lodge

Teton interagency fire personnel responded to a report of a small fire in Grand Teton National Park on Saturday, August 16. The human-caused Trail Fire, located approximately 300 feet west of the one-way Jenny Lake scenic drive, was reported shortly after 12 p.m. by Jenny Lake Lodge staff. The fire was burning a single tree and nearby brush, with short-range spotting in dead and downed litter. Because it was human-caused, the 1/10-acre fire was suppressed.

Two park rangers and five firefighters with two wildland fire engines joined the Lodge staff—who had initially responded to the fire with shovels and fire extinguishers—at the scene and continued fire suppression activities. The fire was contained on Saturday at 2:45 p.m., and it is expected to be declared out on Sunday, August 17.

The Trail Fire was apparently ignited by a cigarette from a smoker or smokers using an undeveloped trail in the String Lake/Jenny Lake Lodge area. The fire burned in an area that had undergone a fuel-reduction treatment as well as a previous wildfire, which had reduced fuels in the area.

After several weeks of Very High fire danger, Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest have changed the fire danger rating to High. However, the Trail Fire offers a reminder that lower-elevation forests and sagebrush flats remain drier than normal this year. Continued dry weather is expected for August, and visitors are reminded to be cautious when building campfires. In Grand Teton National Park, campfires are only allowed in fire grates within frontcountry campgrounds and in established fire rings at some designated backcountry lakeshore campsites. Unattended or abandoned campfires can escalate into wildland fires, and it is extremely important that all campfires are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before campers leave the site. Visitors should never leave a fire unattended, and should prepare for the unexpected by having a water bucket and shovel on hand and ready to use.

To report either smoke or a fire, please call 307.739.3630. For further information about fires in the greater Jackson Hole area, please contact Bridger-Teton National Forest at 307.739.5500 or visit

Temporary Road Closure Scheduled for Moose-Wilson Road

August 11, 2008
Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott announced today that a brief travel closure will be in effect on the unpaved section of the Moose-Wilson Road within Grand Teton National Park for about ten hours beginning at 7 a.m. on Thursday, August 14. The temporary closure is scheduled to allow for grading work to be done on the gravel roadbed. The Moose-Wilson Road will reopen by 5 p.m., barring inclement weather or equipment malfunction.

Road crews will complete the project in the shortest time possible; however, because this temporary closure prevents the ability to make a “through trip” on the Moose-Wilson Road, local residents and park visitors are advised to plan accordingly and detour around the road during the closure. For those visitors wishing to reach the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve or the Death Canyon trailhead, access will be possible by driving south from the junction with the Teton Park Road at Moose, Wyoming.

The gravel surface of the Moose-Wilson Road between the Granite Canyon trailhead and the old JY Ranch gate, 1.5 miles north of the trailhead, becomes eroded throughout the summer due to the volume of vehicles that travel on it. Road grading will create a smoother surface and provide an added measure of safety for motorists using this park roadway.

Roadwork schedules may change, or be delayed, due to weather conditions, equipment malfunction, or other extenuating circumstances.

Vehicle Rollover Accident Results in a Fatality in Grand Teton National Park

August 10, 2008
A single-car rollover on Saturday evening, August 9, resulted in the death of a sixteen-year-old male in Grand Teton National Park. The accident occurred at 7:05 p.m. on Highway 26/89/191, near the Elk Ranch Flats just 1.5 miles south of Moran junction. Seven people—an extended family from Washington State and Hungary—were traveling in a Honda Odyssey minivan when the accident occurred. The driver and six passengers sustained injuries; one of the passengers, an eight-year-old boy, suffered life-threatening injuries. Four of the vehicle occupants were wearing seatbelts and remained in the minivan; two passengers, including the deceased teenager, were ejected from the vehicle.

James Kochis, age 70, from Port Orchard, Washington, was driving southbound on the highway when his vehicle left the pavement for unknown reasons and rolled one or more times before coming to rest on all four wheels. The cause of the accident is under investigation; however, it appears that the tires of the minivan dropped off the pavement, forcing Kochis to make an abrupt correction, which caused the vehicle to roll and come to a stop on the east side of the highway after crossing both lanes of the highway.

The sixteen-year-old male passenger was ejected out of the rear window of the minivan and was pronounced dead at the scene. The eight-year-old boy received fractures to both legs and sustained other internal injuries. A park ambulance took the young boy and his father to St. John’s Medical Center, where he was transferred by Life Flight to Salt Lake City later Saturday night. The other four occupants were transported to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson for treatment of a variety of serious injuries.

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a report of the accident from the Teton County Sheriff’s Office shortly after it occurred. Approximately 20 park personnel (park rangers, emergency medical personnel, one Air Force EMT detailed to Grand Teton National Park and Teton interagency fire staff) as well as Jackson Hole Fire/EMS staff, Teton County deputy sheriffs and a Wyoming Highway Patrol officer responded to the accident. In addition to the interagency response, two physicians from St. John’s Medical Center, Dr. Will Smith (the park’s medical director) and Dr. Vaughn Morgan, also provided emergency medical care at the scene.

Teton interagency fire staff helped with traffic control at the Moran and Moose junctions to divert vehicles from the area. Other mutual aid assistance from Jackson included a Jackson Hole Fire/EMS rescue vehicle with an extrication team and two ambulances.

Due to the serious nature of the accident and the multiple ambulances and emergency medical personnel required to treat the numerous injured people, Highway 26/89/191 was closed to traffic from 7:10 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Traffic was rerouted through a detour along the Teton Park Road.

Climbing Fatality near Gilkey Tower in Grand Teton National Park

August 10, 2008
A 55-year-old man from Helena, Montana took a fatal fall while traversing the ridge between the South Teton and Cloudveil Dome with three companions on Saturday afternoon, August 9. Chris Pazder slipped on snow while crossing the south side of Gilkey Tower (elevation 12,320 ft.) and tumbled about 800 feet over steep rock before landing on a ledge on the north side of Avalanche Canyon. He was carrying an ice axe at the time of the slide, but was unable to self arrest.

Grand Teton National Park rangers were notified of the accident at approximately 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, when Pazder’s companions placed a cell phone call to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center to report the incident. Rangers immediately organized a rescue operation and requested the assistance of an interagency contract helicopter for air support. The helicopter flew to Lupine Meadows, picked up several rangers, and undertook an aerial reconnaissance flight. Pazder was located from the air, and rangers were able to verify that he was deceased.

A ranger who was on routine mountain patrol in Garnet Canyon was diverted from his backcountry route to the accident scene. He reached the three members of Pazder’s party just before 5:00 p.m. and assisted them with the descent to their camp in the South Fork of Garnet Canyon. They were able to hike out of Garnet Canyon on Sunday morning.

Because of an incoming thunderstorm and the time of day, rangers decided to wait until Sunday to attempt to recover Pazder. At about 7:00 a.m. Sunday, helicopter operations and the recovery effort resumed.

Rangers began their ground-based recovery operation on Sunday morning by flying six rangers to a landing zone near Lake Taminah, in Avalanche Canyon. The rescue personnel had to ascend 200 feet of technical terrain to the ledge where Pazder came to rest. The recovery operation was completed by early Sunday evening.

Injured Climber Rescued from Upper Saddle of Grand Teton

August 8, 2008
An injured climber was evacuated by helicopter from the Grand Teton on Thursday afternoon, August 7, in Grand Teton National Park. Merry Carny, age 46, of Salt Lake City, Utah sustained multiple broken bones after landing hard during a rappel from a cliff near the Upper Saddle of the Grand Teton. Carny and her husband had successfully reached the summit and were on their way down when the accident occurred; neither climber was wearing a helmet at the time.

The Carnys climbed the Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton on Thursday morning and reached the summit at 12:30 p.m. They were descending the standard rappel near the Upper Saddle when Merry was unable to maintain friction on her climbing rope and ultimately slid about 50 feet before coming to an abrupt stop on the slope below the rappel route. She landed on her feet, but fell backward after the abrupt landing. Carny received injuries to her leg, side and back, and was unable to continue climbing. The Carnys used their cell phone to report their situation; however, because of their location on the Grand Teton, the call was received by the Driggs, Idaho sheriff’s office. Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received notice of the accident at 1:30 p.m., and park rangers immediately summoned an interagency contract helicopter to assist with the rescue effort.

Three park rangers were transported by the contract helicopter to the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton, and one of those rangers was then inserted into the accident site via short-haul. Two additional rangers were flown by helicopter to the Lower Saddle along with necessary rescue equipment, and a second ranger was also inserted by short-haul into the accident site. Carny was given emergency medical care by the rangers and placed into a rescue litter for evacuation. She was then flown at 4:45 p.m.—with a ranger accompanying her—directly to the Jenny Lake rescue cache located on the valley floor. A park ambulance transported her to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson for further treatment of her injuries.

The remaining ranger accompanied Mr. Carny as he continued his descent from the Upper Saddle. Upon reaching the Lower Saddle, he too was flown by helicopter to the rescue cache to expedite his ability to join his wife at the hospital.

This marks the second major search and rescue operation in Grand Teton National Park in the past two days.

Seriously Injured Hiker Located After Major Search in Grand Teton National Park

Felder was located at the base of the cascade waterfall and snowfield

August 7, 2008
A seriously injured hiker was located and rescued Wednesday afternoon, August 6, from Avalanche Canyon in Grand Teton National Park after an extensive search effort that involved 65 searchers from multiple agencies: Grand Teton National Park rangers and trail crew, a Teton interagency helitak crew, and members of the Teton County Search and Rescue team. Fifty-eight year old Richard Felder, from Houston, Texas, was descending Avalanche Canyon on Tuesday morning, August 5, when he slipped on a snowfield just below Snowdrift Lake and tumbled at least 10 feet over a cliff. Felder received internal and head injuries, as well as several broken bones, and was unable to resume hiking. He spent an unscheduled night in the backcountry, enduring cold temperatures and his multiple injuries.

Felder and his wife, Patty, were on a backcountry trip, hiking the Teton Crest Trail together, when they opted to separate from one another at 7 a.m. on Tuesday after camping in the south fork of Cascade Canyon. Richard chose to hike out of the Tetons via a traverse over Avalanche Divide—a route he had read about in a recent issue of Backpacker Magazine. Patty continued to hike out the more traditional route through Cascade Canyon, intending to meet her husband at Jenny Lake sometime late Tuesday afternoon. When Richard failed to return by the appointed time, Patty reported him overdue to park rangers at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. Rangers began to coordinate a field search for Felder and planned to get searchers on the ground at first light the next morning.

At 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, a team of two park rangers hiked from Taggart Lake into Avalanche Canyon, while another team hiked from Jenny Lake into Cascade Canyon to reach Avalanche Divide. These two “hasty search” parties met at Snowdrift Lake in Avalanche Canyon without finding Felder. The incident commander for the search effort also summoned the assistance of an interagency helicopter to provide aerial search capabilities. Because the interagency helicopter was temporarily out of service for maintenance, air operations did not begin until 11 a.m. In the meantime, over 20 searchers—including the park’s trail maintenance crew and Teton interagency fire crews—began an extensive ground search using a grid system to methodically cover assigned sectors of Avalanche Canyon from Taggart Lake trailhead. Once airborne, the helicopter was able to deliver approximately 15 searchers into the upper canyon using a landing zone at Snowdrift Lake; these people fanned out to search assigned locations above the lake.

Working a systematic search pattern from the air, rangers eventually spotted Felder at 4:52 p.m. Felder was lying near some rocks at the base of a snowfield about ¼ mile below Snowdrift Lake outlet; he became visible to the searchers after he waved his arm at the helicopter. Rescue personnel responded by foot from Snowdrift Lake, reaching Felder at 5:12 p.m. These first responders provided emergency medical care for his serious injuries and prepared him for immediate evacuation by helicopter. Felder was placed into a rescue litter at 5:40 p.m. and flown by short-haul with an attending ranger directly to Lupine Meadows where a park ambulance was waiting to transport him to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson.

An investigating ranger was able to interview Felder in the hospital on Thursday morning, and Felder gave the following account of his ordeal: While descending from Snowdrift Lake (elevation 9,999 ft.), Felder found himself on a steep snow-covered slope; because he did not have an ice axe with him, he began to use his hiking pole as a brace to get himself to a more level area. As he traversed the snowfield, he started to slide, but was able to remain on his feet. He then continued to work his way toward a flatter spot, but broke through the snow into a shallow stream and hit his head on a rock. To climb out of the icy moat (lingering snow cover in the backcountry may be as deep as 15 feet), he took his pack off and tied it to his waist so that he could climb out of the snow cavity without interference from his backpack. He gradually worked his way out of this hollow using steps that he punched with his feet. As he was attempting to put his backpack on his shoulder, he slipped again. His backpack was still tied to his body, so as he slipped, its weight pulled him off balance, causing him to slide and then tumble over a 10-foot cliff. At this point, Felder was dazed and seriously injured. He tried to get a shelter from inside his pack and other items to help him with his injuries, but was unable to reach them. Felder noted that the temperature became quite cold with the setting sun. He also noted that the next morning he watched “helicopters come and go several times” and tried to get a yellow shirt from his pack to place onto his hiking pole to use as a signal.

Felder’s injuries were serious enough that he may not have survived a second night exposed to the elements in the Teton backcountry. He is scheduled to be flown to Houston for further intensive medical care on Friday.

The search and rescue operation was successful in locating and evacuating Felder in a relatively short period of time thanks to the combined efforts of park staff and interagency partners, including search coordinators from Teton County Search and Rescue.

The Teton backcountry can be difficult terrain in which to locate a single person, especially if they are injured and not moving. Rangers caution backcountry users that making a solo hike and climb includes a certain level of risk. If someone gets injured and cannot perform a self rescue, they may become vulnerable to the elements and be stranded for a period of time until a rescue and evacuation can be accomplished.

Wal-Mart Volunteers Assist with Projects in Grand Teton National Park

August 5, 2008
Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott is pleased to announce that volunteers from Wal-Mart have once again donated their time and energy to work in Grand Teton National Park. On Monday, August 4, a group of approximately 60 Wal-Mart volunteers joined park employees to assist with site clean-up projects at the Mormon Row Historic District and the recently acquired Hartgrave property—a former private inholding, located about five miles south of Moose on the Moose-Wilson Road. The volunteers, employees of Wal-Mart stores throughout southeastern Idaho, are participants in a company program titled “Volunteerism Always Pays” (VAP).

The Wal-Mart volunteers spent approximately five hours working with one of Grand Teton’s Student Conservation Association interns and staff from the Western Center for Historic Preservation—a workshop and training center based in Grand Teton National Park for historic preservation work throughout the greater Yellowstone area. Together, the group removed trash and debris from areas surrounding historic structures at Mormon Row, cleaning up both the inside and outside of these buildings. Volunteers also worked at the Hartgrave property, where they cleared trash piles and helped remove several small structures in order to facilitate extensive rehabilitation of this area. With help from Land and Water Conservation Funds and Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act funds, the park was able to purchase the Hartgrave property last year and begin taking steps to restore the 4.4-acre property to its natural state.

Wal-Mart’s VAP program began in 1995 as a way to encourage employees to connect with, and give back to, their local communities. Since then, the program has contributed more than 7 million hours to deserving organizations. In 2007, more than 1 million volunteer hours translated to approximately $6 million in VAP contributions. Mark Marvin, Wal-Mart market manager, said of the volunteers: “Our Grand Teton projects are a wonderful example of how a few hours of work will have long-lasting impact to the historic preservation at one of this region’s world-renowned national parks. Wal-Mart associates are proud to have a role in what we hope will be a turning point for these key park locations.”

“This is the third year that Wal-Mart has been a welcome park partner. The commitment and generous efforts of the VAP volunteers add immeasurably to our resource preservation work in Grand Teton National Park,” said Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott. “We are grateful to the Wal-Mart team for offering their time and skills toward the restoration of one of the park’s significant historical areas at Mormon Row, and one of the park’s newly obtained properties at the Hartgrave place. Through the assistance of these volunteers, we can better preserve the park’s distinctive cultural history, improve our ability to reveal the past by making areas safe for visitors to explore, and restore habitat for wildlife use.”

Previous years’ projects included rehabilitation of popular park trails and restoration work at the heavily-used Schwabacher’s Landing on the Snake River.