Thursday, August 17, 2017

Two Mountaineers Rescued on Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park’s Jenny Lake Rangers, Teton Interagency Helitack, and the Teton Interagency Contract Helicopter came to the rescue of two mountaineers Tuesday, August 15. The mountaineers, Nick Marucci, 30, of Salt Lake City, UT and Laura Robertson, 23, of Orem, UT were attempting to complete the Grand Traverse when they became mentally and physically exhausted after five challenging days in the high mountains.

Marucci and Robertson ascended Teewinot Mountain and Mount Owen on the first two days of their journey before cool temperatures, rain, and hail hampered their progress on Sunday. On Monday, the two climbers ascended a portion of the North Ridge of the Grand Teton despite limited visibility and wet, icy conditions. After ascending a few hundred feet, suffering minor injuries, and loosing manual dexterity due to the cold, they called for help at 4:15 p.m. Their call was forwarded from the Teton County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center.

Jenny Lake Rangers took the call and attempted to talk the mountaineers through various escape route possibilities. Rangers stationed at the Lower Saddle also attempted to reach their location but were unable to do so due to the wet conditions. The rangers then advised Marucci and Robertson to descend to a small ledge and spend the night in their tent before descending two rappels further to the Grandstand feature the following morning.

After discussing options with the climbers to make the long descent out of the mountains Tuesday morning, it became clear that they were too exhausted and an aerial rescue would be the safest and most expeditious form of rescue. Rangers conducted a reconnaissance flight before configuring the helicopter for short-haul rescue.

Once an adequate window between mid-level clouds opened, one ranger was flown to the climbers’ location at 12,600 feet and he prepared the two climbers for extraction by short-haul. Just after noon, Robertson was flown solo to the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache in an evacuation suit before the ranger flew with Marucci to the same location a few minutes later.

Jenny Lake Rangers advise mountaineers attempting the Grand Traverse to become familiar with portions of the route’s complex terrain before attempting the route in its entirety. Special attention should be given to possible escape routes along the way. Additionally, cool temperatures and precipitation can come to the Teton highcountry with little warning—adequate rain gear is essential.

Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual or gear is suspended below the helicopter on a 150 to 250 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.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sprague Fire Grows to 100 Acres - Glacier Resumes Issuing Backcountry Permits

The Sprague Fire, which was sparked in a lightning storm on August 10 in Glacier National Park, has actively burned over the past two days.

The park is managing the Sprague Fire using a confine and contain suppression strategy. The objective is to keep the fire within natural and human made fire breaks due to the steep terrain, concern for firefighter safety given the terrain, and scarcity of firefighter resources due to high fire activity throughout the northwest. The park expects that this fire may continue to burn in some capacity throughout the summer season before a snow event this fall.

Though a cool weather system moved through the area on Sunday and Monday, little rain fell on the fire. The fire is now estimated at 100 acres and is burning in steep, heavily forested terrain on the west side of the park. Due to very dry fuels and predicted dry weather conditions, fire managers expect to see continued fire growth over the next several weeks.

The fire is located above Crystal Ford on the Gunsight Trail. This is the main access trail to the Sperry Chalet. Depending on fire behavior, the Sperry Chalet may remain closed for the rest of the season. The structures at Sperry Chalet are not immediately threatened by fire at this time, however the park is prepared to implement structural protection precautions as necessary. Sperry Chalet has 17 guest rooms that hold between 40-50 overnight guests each night during the summer season. The chalet was scheduled to close for the season on September 11.

Thus far, ground firefighting resources have not been able to access the fire safely for direct action. Crews are evaluating the terrain and identifying natural fire breaks, areas for human-made fire breaks, and other fuel modification strategies that will be used to contain the fire. The fire is expected to grow beyond the steep mountainous terrain it is now in. If the fire moves off of the steep slopes, crews will be able to conduct ground firefighting operations. As available, aerial resources will continue to be used to reinforce natural and manmade barriers.

Other fires within the park have been contained or are being staffed. A fire was reported in the North Fork area of the park on Sunday. The Adair Peak fire was evaluated on August 14 for fire behavior and threats to structures. It is burning in heavy duff in a remote area. It would require a substantial firefighter commitment to extinguish in the short-term. Due to this, the park will continue to evaluate and assess this fire, but will direct firefighting resources to other fires unless fire behavior changes. Fire managers expect that the Adair Peak fire may grow somewhat. No structures are immediately threatened.

Glacier National Park has resumed issuing backcountry permits for designated backcountry campgrounds. Some backcountry campgrounds are closed due to fire activity. All front country campgrounds remain open. Check here for updated backcountry status. Trail closures remain in effect for the Howe Ridge Trail, Camas Trail, Trout Lake Trail, the Gunsight Pass Trail from Lake McDonald to Gunsight Pass (including all secondary trails such as the Snyder Lake Trail), and the Lincoln Lake Trail. Most areas of the park are open including all areas of the North Fork, Apgar Village, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Granite Park Chalet, Two Medicine, St. Mary, Many Glacier and Goat Haunt. Please check the park website for updated trail and road information at


Sperry Chalet Closed for the Season Due to Wildfire

As a result of the recent Sprague fire, Sperry Chalet has announced that it has closed for the season. Here's a statement from the chalet manager:
We regret to inform you that the Sperry Chalet season is over. The National Park Service and teams of wildland fire fighters are putting in a great effort at fighting the Sprague fire which is threatening the Sperry Trail, but the fire is winning this battle. It is currently estimated at 100 acres and is expected to grow further. The buildings at Sperry Chalet are not currently in any danger, but we are cut off from reaching the chalet.

We are beginning the process of canceling all reservations for the remainder of the season. We will be contacting reservation holders directly. The guests we are unable to serve will be receiving full refunds. If you have any questions about your reservation please call our office.

We are grateful for the support we have received from the National Park Service. We have also received help and encouragement from a great many people including fellow park concessions, neighboring private businesses, concerned citizens, and the amazing guests of Sperry Chalet. I feel honored to be part of this supportive Glacier Park community.

And of course we applaud the efforts of all firefighters working in Montana this year. This summer has been a good reminder for us about the importance of respecting Mother Nature's incredible powers.

Best Wishes



Grand Teton National Park Announces Official Eclipse Viewing Locations

Grand Teton National Park managers expect August 21, 2017—the day of the Total Solar Eclipse Across America—to be the busiest single day in the history of the park. Visitors to the park on eclipse day can ensure a successful viewing experience by developing a plan and heeding a few simple guidelines. Complete eclipse viewing information can be found in a special edition newspaper available in park visitor centers and entrance stations, and by visiting and clicking the eclipse banner.

Visitors are invited to view the eclipse from the center path of totality along the Gros Ventre Road, which will be the largest eclipse viewing area in the park. The road will be one-way traffic eastbound from its junction with U.S. Highway 26/89/191 to the community of Kelly, with parking allowed in the left lane. Portable toilets will be located along the road, as well as park staff.

Rangers and astronomers will provide telescopes and interpretive programs at four designated eclipse viewing areas including the Gros Ventre Campground Amphitheater, Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center parking area, Jackson Lake Lodge back lawn, and behind the Colter Bay Visitor Center.

Due to limited parking available at the Gros Ventre Amphitheater, parking passes are required. One hundred free passes will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis Saturday, August 19 from the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose and the Colter Bay Visitor Center starting at 8:00 a.m. Campers at the Gros Ventre Campground and visitors parking along the Gros Ventre Road are invited to join the program by walking to the amphitheater.

The eclipse will be visible throughout the park with the duration of totality ranging from 2 minutes 19 seconds near the park’s southern boundary to just a few seconds along the park’s northern boundary. No matter where visitors view the eclipse, they should be prepared with ample food, water, eclipse glasses, sunscreen, and other necessary items for the day as little to no infrastructure exists in most locations. Visitors should pack out all trash and recyclables and heed the following guidelines as they make their eclipse day plans:

•Expect heavy congestion, traffic gridlock, and long delays. Allow ample time to arrive at your eclipse viewing location and consider staying in place afterward until traffic thins,

•Have water, food, and vehicle fuel for the day. Bring a minimum of 2 quarts of water per person,

•No roadside parking will be allowed on U.S. Highway 26/89/191, Teton Park Road, or Moose-Wilson Road,

•Eclipse parking begins at 6:00 a.m. park-wide. Overnight parking or camping in roadside pullouts, turnouts, or parking lots is not allowed,

•Prevent human-caused wildfires. Charcoal burning and campfires are allowed only at designated campgrounds and picnic areas within metal fire grates. Stoves and grills that burn contained fuel sources such as liquid petroleum gases are allowed on hardened surfaces if attended at all times, and

•Additional portable toilets will be located throughout the park.

Several special eclipse and astronomy programs are planned in the park this weekend, Friday, August 18 through Sunday, August 20. Please visit the park’s website or the special eclipse newspaper for more information.


Partial Fire Restriction Begin Today August 15 on Public Land

Stage 1 fire restrictions will be go into effect for Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, Bureau of Land Management High Desert District and National Elk Refuge beginning 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, August 15.

Stage 1 fire restrictions apply primarily to campfires and smoking. The restrictions are based in part on the current high fire danger and predictions of continued warm and dry weather. Other factors include current regional and national fire activity and increased visitation to the area during the upcoming total solar eclipse. Several geographic areas are experiencing major incidents which have the potential to exhaust all agency fire resources. “The limited number of available fire resources due to the national fire situation and the increased traffic may limit our ability to respond to fires in a timely fashion,” said Mike Johnston, assistant fire management officer for the Bridger-Teton National Forest. “We want people to take the danger seriously and obey the restrictions that are in place.”

Fire managers study the moisture content of various fuel types, track current and expected weather conditions, and monitor available fire-fighting resources, as well as the occurrence of human-caused fires, to determine when fire restrictions need to be applied to public lands. The Teton Interagency Dispatch Center has recorded over 73 unattended campfires so far this summer.

Teton and Sublette Counties will also begin fire restrictions this week. The Shoshone and Caribou-Targhee National Forests have implemented some form of fire restrictions as well. Teton Wilderness on the Blackrock Ranger District, and the Bridger Wilderness on the Pinedale Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, will be exempted from the stage 1 restriction order. These areas are higher in elevation and the fuels are not as dry as the rest of the forest.

Stage 1 fire restrictions include:

•Lighting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, barbecue or grill is allowed only at designated recreation sites such as established campgrounds or picnic areas. Use of portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel, or use of a fully enclosed sheepherder type stove with a spark arrester screen is permitted.

•Smoking is allowed only in an enclosed vehicle, building (unless otherwise prohibited), developed recreation site, or while in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials (i.e. parking lots, developed campsites, or locations surrounded by water).

The following restrictions exist year round:

•Operating a chainsaw is prohibited in national parks and on the wildlife refuge. Operating a chainsaw on national forest lands is permitted only when equipped with a USDA or SAE approved spark arrester that is properly installed and in effective working order. Operators must also carry a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 2A and one round point shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches.

•Discharge of fireworks and use of explosives requiring blasting caps are prohibited.

•Charcoal burning fires are only allowed in official campgrounds and picnic areas.

•Stoves and grills that burn contained fuel sources that can be turned off and on are allowed. Stoves and grills must be attended to all times and be setup on hardened surfaces devoid of vegetation at least three feet in diameter.

Violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, and/or by imprisonment for more than six months.

Unattended or abandoned campfires can quickly escalate into wildfires, and it is extremely important that all campfires are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before campers leave their site. Visitors should NEVER leave a fire unattended, and should prepare for the unexpected by having a water bucket and shovel on hand and ready to use. The fine for an abandoned campfire as well as campfires in unapproved areas is up to $5000 or 6-months in jail, but campers can also be held liable for suppression costs if their campfire becomes a wildfire.

A copy of the order and additional information on allowable stoves is available on To report a fire or smoke on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, or National Elk Refuge, call 307.739.3630.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Glacier National Park Fire Update - 8/14

Glacier National Park has resumed issuing backcountry permits in designated backcountry sites. Some backcountry campgrounds are closed due to fire activity. All front country campgrounds remain open. Check for updated status.

Trail closures remain in effect for the Howe Ridge Trail, Camas Trail, Trout Lake Trail, the Gunsight Pass Trail from Lake McDonald to Gunsight Pass (including all secondary trails such as the Snyder Lake Trail), and the Lincoln Lake Trail.

The Sprague Fire (estimated at 35 acres) is being managed using a confine and contain strategy due to the steep terrain and concerns with fire fighter safety. Aerial resources have been used to slow fire growth, and ground resources are on scene. Other fires within the park are being staffed.

Sperry Chalet remains closed. The structures in the Sperry Chalet complex are not immediately threatened, however the Sprague fire has necessitated the closure of the main trail that accesses the chalet. No overnight guests remain at Sperry Chalet.

Most areas of the park are open including all areas of the North Fork, Apgar Village, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Granite Park Chalet, Two Medicine, St. Mary, Many Glacier and Goat Haunt. Please check the park website for updated trail and road information at


Yellowstone releases reports about visitors and traffic

Yellowstone National Park has released the results of two separate studies completed in 2016 that provide current information about traffic and parking, as well as visitor demographics, values, experiences, and expectations.

The park invested in these studies to better understand the challenges of increased visitation. Since 2008, annual visitation in Yellowstone has increased by more than 40 percent. This visitation growth challenges the park’s ability to manage visitor use in a way that protects resources and offers high-quality, safe visitor experiences.

“Historic and recent trends demonstrate that visitation will increase over the long-term, therefore, it is imperative for us to plan now,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk. “Good visitor use management will allow the park to protect resources, encourage access, and improve experiences.”

The new data from the Visitor Use Study shows that visitors enjoy and care about Yellowstone, but they think it’s too crowded during the summer season. Visitors value the park for its natural character and come specifically to experience scenery, wildlife, thermal features, a largely intact ecosystem, and sounds of quiet and nature. More than half of Yellowstone’s visitors surveyed think that there are too many people in the park. Based on data collected in the study, 83 percent of Yellowstone’s visitors come from the United States and 17 percent come from abroad, including visitors from Europe (49 percent of international), China (34 percent of international), and Canada (10 percent of international).

The Transportation and Vehicle Mobility Study shows that within Yellowstone’s most heavily-travelled corridors, parking lots are overflowing, traffic jams abound, and roadway safety incidents are on the rise. The report identifies the busiest corridors as the roads that connect Yellowstone’s West Entrance with visitor attractions throughout the western and central parts of the park (such as Old Faithful, other geyser basins, the Canyon Area, Hayden Valley, Fishing Bridge, and Lake Village). During much of the summer season, there are on average nearly 30 percent more vehicles using these corridors than those roads can comfortably and safely handle.

Outside of heavily-travelled corridors, traffic levels are also high, with vehicles following closely behind other vehicles 60-80 percent of the time. According to the study, assuming a conservative 3.7-5.3 percent growth rate per year, all roadways in the park are expected to perform poorly by 2021-2023 due to traffic volume. Two thirds of Yellowstone’s visitors surveyed think that finding available parking is a problem, and over half think that the amount of roadway traffic and congestion are problems.

The data from these two new reports, combined with internal data about resource impacts, will help Yellowstone managers consider the types of management strategies that could be used in the future. These strategies include (but aren’t limited to) communication and traffic management systems, shuttle systems and other types of transportation alternatives, and reservations or timed-entry systems. These strategies could be implemented in key locations or park wide.

The park will continue to gather information, including focused studies through 2019, that will guide the park in evaluating tradeoffs in visitor experience and developing the most appropriate strategies to address summer season visitor use challenges. As we move forward, Yellowstone will reach out to its many stakeholder groups to better understand their thoughts on summer visitation and gather information to shape future management actions.

The full reports are available to read and/or download on the park’s summer use planning webpage at