16 People Air-Rescued Off Grand Teton

Rangers stage a daring helicopter rescue off the Grand after lightning strikes 17 climbers, killing one
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Rangers stage a daring helicopter rescue off the Grand after lightning strikes 17 climbers, killing one

I recently overheard that Exum guides have taken 12-year-old kids to the summit of the Grand Teton. But that shouldn't cause anyone to dismiss the danger of this peak: Rangers just pulled off a stunning rescue via helicopter of 16 people off the Grand yesterday. All of them were in various forms of injury and distress after being struck by lightning.A 17th climber is still missing. UPDATE: Rescuers have found the body of the 17th climber and are attempting to recover the 21-year-old man.

All 17 climbers were caught in a horrific storm over the 13,770-foot Grand, with six or seven strikes hitting the top between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. yesterday. Rangers dropped to the summit from the helicopter via a short rope and hauled nine climbers off the top; they pulled another seven off a lower section on the Owen-Spaulding route known as the Belly Roll. It was here that the missing climber went over the edge of a cliff.

The two park service helicopters dropped off the climbers at the Lower Saddle, where climbers reported being struck up to five times and displayed injuries from burns and electrical injuries to concussions and trauma from being thrown. None are described as being in critical condition. The rangers immediately began searching for the missing climber, but had to call off operations after dark. They plan to resume searching today.

The Jackson officials estimate this is the largest rescue in Grand Teton in almost 50 years. ReserveAmerica has already named the Rangers of the Year for 2010, but if you ask me, every single one of these guys is a shoo-in for next year.

—Ted Alvarez

via Jackson Hole News & Guide via Adventure Life

image credit: magadelic rock