MOOSE, WY — A Utah climber required a helicopter rescue after falling on the Lower Exum Ridge of the Grand Teton on Sunday, October 5, at Grand Teton National Park.
Rangers were able to conduct the late season rescue despite low staffing levels and challenging weather conditions. Climbers in the Teton highcountry this time of year should expect winter conditions and plan for slower rescue response times.
Tomasz Misiewicz, 39, of Murray, Utah was climbing with a partner below the first pitch of the Lower Exum Ridge when he fell approximately 20 feet and sustained a leg injury. Misiewicz’s first piece of rock protection failed during the fall. He had taken a smaller fall without injury moments earlier on the same piece of rock protection, possibly contributing to the failure.
Misiewicz’s partner was able to lower him to a ledge and contact Teton Interagency Dispatch Center (TIDC) via 911 shortly after the accident. TIDC received the cell phone call for help at 11:15 am. Fortuitously, three seasonal climbing rangers, all of whom had completed their seasons and were making preparations to return to their winter homes, were available to assist from the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache. Additional permanent climbing rangers were also able to assist.
High winds and rapidly changing cloud conditions were a concern for the rescuers. They were able to conduct a reconnaissance flight with a Teton Interagency contract helicopter and determined that a short-haul evacuation was possible. Two rangers were taken to the Lower Saddle by helicopter and made their way to the scene of the accident. The helicopter later returned and evacuated Misiewicz and an attending ranger via short-haul to the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache where he was transferred to a park ambulance and transported to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming. The helicopter later returned to the Lower Saddle and extracted the remaining ranger and Misiewicz’s partner.
Rangers advise climbers to expect winter conditions in the Teton highcountry at this time of the year. Additionally, all seasonal climbing rangers are now off duty for the season, meaning limited staff is available for climbing rescues. The Teton Interagency contract helicopters will no longer be available after October 21st, making mountain rescues more lengthy and challenging. Climbers should use an abundance of caution in the Tetons and recognize that response times for rescues could be lengthy.