Stranded Climber Rescued from Teewinot

Aerial view of Teewinot Mountain
October 21, 2010
Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued a stranded climber from the east face of Teewinot Mountain on Wednesday evening, October 20 with the assistance of a Teton Interagency contract helicopter. Eric Steinmann, age 26, of Wilson, Wyoming called a friend via cell phone to report that he was in a location on the mountain from which he could not continue climbing without risk of falling. The friend then contacted Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 3:55 p.m. to report Steinmann’s predicament, and rangers launched a rescue mission to reach Steinmann and bring him to safety. Due to the late hour of the day, rangers ultimately used a helicopter-assisted evacuation.

During a reconnaissance flight at 4:50 p.m., Steinmann was located on a steep pinnacle, high on the east face of Teewinot. With little remaining daylight and predicted cold overnight temperatures, a decision was made to insert one ranger via the short-haul technique and place Steinmann in an aerial evacuation suit for a short-haul extraction from the peak. The ranger reached the stranded Steinmann at 5:55 p.m. and prepared him for a flight to the Lupine Meadows rescue cache. The rescue concluded at 6:20 p.m.—just 40 minutes before “pumpkin hour,” the designated time beyond which the ship cannot fly according to FAA regulations.

Steinmann told rangers that he intended to climb the 4th class route up the east face of Teewinot Mountain. Being somewhat new to mountaineering, Steinmann had climbed multiple peaks in the park this summer with various partners; however, this was his first solo climb in the Teton Range. When Steinmann realized that he could no longer continue to climb without great risk of falling, he made the prudent decision to call for help.  

Although mountain rescue operations have become relatively routine for Grand Teton National Park rangers, these operations demand a high level of preparation, technical skill and expertise—as well as focused safety deliberations—before a mission is executed. Many variables can delay or impede a rescue operation and climbers should never take for granted that a rescue is possible. Consequently, climbers should be prepared to initiate a self rescue as a first option.

Park rangers remind climbers to become familiar with the intended route and carry a route description along during their climb. Also, mountaineers should never climb into a position from which they cannot safely retreat: in other words, get “cliffed out.” Furthermore, rangers recommend that climbers go with a partner or partners as an added measure of safety.

Rangers also stress that backcountry users should carry extra clothing, food and water in the event of an unexpected night out in the Tetons. Ultimately, the responsibility for a mountaineer’s safety rests with himself/herself and their climbing partners, plus their experience and preparation.