Five rangers from Grand Teton National Park conducted one of the more physically taxing ground-based rescues in the last several years during the afternoon and evening of Monday, July 22nd.
A 61-year-old Colorado woman sustained an injury somewhere below the very steep talus slope that runs from Lake Taminah to the bottom of Shosoko Falls. Dispatch was notified of the injured hiker by cell phone around 5 p.m. The woman tried to continue her descent, but her injury made it too challenging for her to bear weight.
Avalanche Canyon has some of the most difficult terrain of any of the mountain canyons in the park. There are no maintained trails through the canyon, so hikers have to “bushwhack” their way through dense marsh and vegetation in the lower part of the canyon. Higher in the canyon, hikers must scramble up long sections of steep scree and boulder fields.
Due to the challenges of the terrain, rangers were unable to use standard rescue devices such as a wheeled litter to carry the woman out of Avalanche Canyon. Instead, rescuers traded off physically caring her on their backs for short segments, slowly making their way down the canyon. Once they reached the maintained trail near Taggart Lake, rangers placed her in a wheeled litter to carry her the last two miles to the trailhead.
Both of the Teton interagency contact helicopters were out of the valley on fire assignments and unavailable. If the incident had occurred earlier in the day or if the woman’s injuries had been life threatening, rangers would have likely sought assistance from a short-haul capable helicopter.
This was the park’s 17th major search and rescue operation this year.
Hiking in Glacier National Park