August 21, 2011
In another operation pushing darkness—the second in as many nights—Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued a 25-year-old female who fell about 25 feet while climbing a popular route in Death Canyon called The Snaz. On Saturday, August 20, Lauren McLean from Lake Oswego, Oregon sustained significant injuries when she fell, because her belay system failed, and landed feet first on a ledge at the base of the last pitch.
A member of McLean’s climbing party notified Teton Interagency Dispatch Center of the incident at 4:50 p.m. via cell phone. Park rescue personnel immediately summoned a Teton Interagency contract helicopter to perform a reconnaissance flight to assess the situation. Due to McLean’s location, rangers devised two separate plans for McLean’s rescue; one option included spending the night with her on the cliff and the other option involved an evacuation before dark.
Two rangers were inserted via short-haul just above McLean’s location a little before 8 p.m. One ranger rappelled down to McLean and determined that it would be possible to fly her off the ledge that night. The ranger then stabilized McLean’s injuries and provided emergency medical care before preparing her for a short-haul flight in an aerial evacuation suit. McLean was flown from The Snaz to the historic White Grass Dude Ranch that sits just east of Death Canyon. A park ambulance met the helicopter in a meadow near the ranch buildings and transported McLean to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson for further treatment. McLean was subsequently flown to the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah for additional medical care.
McLean’s two climbing partners decided to hike out of Death Canyon on Saturday night. One ranger spent the night on a ledge of the cliff face in order to assist in flying off rescue equipment and other gear early Sunday morning.
The Snaz is one of the most popular climbs in Death Canyon, and is usually completed in nine pitches. It is rated a 5.9 on the Yosemite Decimal System, a set of numeric ratings describing the difficulty of climbs.