Hiker Falls to his Death on Teewinot

Aerial view of Teewinot Mountain
September 23, 2009
Grand Teton National Park rangers used the Teton interagency contract helicopter to locate and retrieve the body of a backcountry hiker who apparently fell to his death on Teewinot Mountain about
1 p.m. on Tuesday, September 22. Eliot Kalmbach, age 24, from Pennsylvania and his partner Jon Winiasz, age 23, of Vermilion, Ohio were traversing a steep slope on Teewinot when Kalmbach fell and tumbled approximately 300 feet and sustained fatal injuries. Because the two men only intended to hike and scramble, neither was wearing a helmet or carrying climbing gear.

Kalmbach and Winiasz arrived in Grand Teton a few days before the accident. After consulting with park rangers about various backcountry hiking and climbing possibilities, they hiked to Delta Lake on Sunday, September 20, and climbed the Southwest Couloir on Middle Teton on Monday. On Tuesday morning, they parked at the Lupine Meadows trailhead and hiked up a portion of the Apex Trail to reach and explore the east flank of Teewinot. During their excursion, they got off course and onto a more vertical slope than they intended, and Kalmbach accidentally fell while trying to scramble across technical terrain. After Kalmbach came to rest, Winiasz scrambled down to him and realized that his friend was unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse. Winiasz used Kalmbach’s cell phone to call 911 and the emergency call was transferred to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 1:28 p.m.

Park rangers summoned the contract helicopter that was already working in the vicinity, and used the ship to pinpoint the hikers’ location from the air. Rangers determined that no suitable landing spot was available from which they could stage a mountain-based rescue operation, so they conducted a short-haul mission from the park’s rescue cache at Lupine Meadows on the valley floor.

One ranger with emergency gear was inserted via short-haul into the accident site at 3:30 p.m. Upon arriving, he confirmed that Kalmbach was deceased. A second ranger was inserted with a rescue litter, and the two placed Winiasz into an evacuation suit for a short-haul flight to the Lupine Meadows rescue cache. The helicopter made a second flight at 4:30 p.m. to evacuate Kalmbach. Teton County Coroner Bob Campbell then met the rangers at Lupine Meadows to transport Kalmbach by vehicle to Jackson, Wyoming.