Seriously Injured Skier Rescued from the Ellingwood Couloir

July 3, 2011
Grand Teton National Park rangers conducted a short-haul operation for a 33 year-old skier, who took a tumbling 800 foot fall just after 10 a.m. on Saturday, July, 2. Ryan Redmond of Delafield, Wisconsin was skiing down the Ellingwood Couloir (11,500 ft) on the south side of the Middle Teton when he lost control and slid down the gully. Rangers believe snow conditions were a contributing factor in this accident.

A member of Redmond’s party called the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 10:15 a.m. Two rangers who were approaching the summit of Nez Perce were diverted at 10:30 a.m. and headed down to Redmond’s location. They reached him at 12:30 p.m. and provided emergency medical care.

A Teton Interagency helicopter was summoned from Cody, Wyoming where it was doing work under its interagency contract. Another ranger was flown in the helicopter to a landing zone near the accident site and helped prepare Redmond for a short-haul evacuation in a litter to Lupine Meadows.

At the Lupine Meadow’s rescue cache, Redmond was met by a team of emergency medial providers led by Dr. Will Smith, one of the co-medical director’s for Grand Teton National Park. Redmond was stabilized at the rescue cache, and then flown directly to Eastern Idaho Regional Medial Center (EIRMC) at 2:45 p.m. on an Air Idaho life flight.

Redmond was telemark skiing in a group with three other skiers. Redmond and one of his companions stopped about two-thirds of the way up and two others continued to the top of the couloir. Redmond was the first to begin skiing and had just initiated his descent when he lost control and fell.

Redmond was wearing a climbing helmet and had an ice axe attached to his ski pole, but he was unable to self arrest on the firm snow. All members of his party used ice axes and crampons to climb up the Ellingwood Couloir. Redmond has ties to the valley.

Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual is suspended below the helicopter on a 100 to 200 foot rope. This method allows a rescuer more direct access to an injured party, and it is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain. Patients are typically flown out via short-haul with a ranger attending to them below the helicopter, as was the case for this rescue.

Rangers remind backcountry users that dangerous and variable snow conditions persist above 8,500 feet. 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. Hikers, climbers, and skiers should also note that most accidents involve slips on snow, and most occur on the descent at the end of the day.