Climber Evacuated from Valhalla Traverse

Icy slope where Smith fell while crossing the Valhalla Traverse

August 26, 2010
Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued an injured climber from the Valhalla Traverse on the Grand Teton Thursday afternoon, August 26, after receiving a call for help at 11:30 a.m. alerting them of a climber who had fallen and sustained injuries. Michelle Smith, 29, of Jackson, Wyoming was traversing across snow and ice when she slipped and fell 30 feet.

Smith and her climbing partner were planning to do a one-day trip up the Enclosure Couloir (12,000 feet) on the northwest side of the Grand Teton. Both climbers were using ropes while crossing the Valhalla Traverse, and both have extensive climbing experience in the Teton Range.

Three rangers were flown from Lupine Meadows to the Lower Saddle at 12:40 p.m. to meet up with two other rangers who were already on patrol at the Lower Saddle. From there, two of the rangers were short-hauled below the helicopter and delivered in close proximity to the accident site. One ranger hiked to Smith and reached her at about 2:30 p.m. The ranger provided emergency medical care to Smith before preparing her for aerial evacuation.

Smith was flown to the Lower Saddle via short-haul, then placed inside the helicopter for the flight down to Lupine Meadows where a park ambulance was waiting to transport her to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson.

Rangers remind hikers and climbers that one-third of all backcountry injuries result from slips on snow and ice.

Backcountry users are advised to stop in or call a visitor center or ranger station on the day of travel to obtain the most current trail, route and snow conditions. Climbers should also note that most accidents occur on the descent at the end of the day.