Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grand Teton National Park Trails Worker Dies in Avalanche

Rangers began a recovery mission yesterday morning for the body of a backcountry skier who died in an avalanche on Sunday, January 27th. Nick Gillespie, 30, of Jackson, Wyoming, was caught in an avalanche on the southeast face of Survey Peak in the northern Teton Range about 5 p.m. Sunday and died as a result of injuries suffered in the slide.

Gillespie was a long-time seasonal employee of Grand Teton National Park who’d worked on the park’s trail crew for the past six years, and before that had worked for Rocky Mountain NP, and the Willamette and Lassen National Forests. There were three people with him at the time of the accident, one a fellow seasonal trails worker at Grand Teton, but none was injured.

Rangers enlisted the assistance of the Teton County Search and Rescue contract helicopter and crew for the recovery mission. Teton Interagency helitack personnel assisted with a temporary helibase established near Colter Bay, 25 miles north of Moran Junction. Four rangers were inserted into Berry Creek canyon on Monday about 11 a.m. Recovery of Gillespie’s body and an investigation into the details of the incident are ongoing.

The avalanche danger on Sunday, January 27th, was listed as low in the morning, rising to moderate in the afternoon at elevations between 9,000 and 10,500 feet. Moderate danger means that natural avalanches are unlikely, but human-triggered avalanches are possible. However, the report also reported, “At upper elevations new snow and winds overnight and expected snow today will create the potential for backcountry users to trigger soft slabs or sloughs to a foot in depth by the afternoon.”

Hiking in Glacier National Park

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