Grand Teton rangers carry injured hiker from Avalanche Canyon

Much of Avalanche Canyon in Grand Teton National Park has no maintained trails, requiring hikers to bushwack through difficult terrain. (NPS photo)

Much of Avalanche Canyon in Grand Teton National Park has no maintained trails, requiring hikers to bushwack through difficult terrain. (NPS photo)

From Staff Reports

Rangers in Grand Teton National Park on Monday conducted what park officials are describing as a particularly difficult rescue operation to assist an injured hiker in Avalanche Canyon.

Rangers aided Carol Nielsen, 61, of Boulder, Colo. after she sustained an unspecified injury Monday while hiking below the steep talus slope that runs from Lake Taminah to the bottom of Shosoko Falls in Avalanche Canyon.

In a statement released Tuesday by the park’s public affairs office, officials said the rescue conducted Monday afternoon and night was “one of the more physically taxing ground-based rescues in the last several years.”

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center was notified of the injured hiker by cell phone around 5 p.m. Nielsen 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 Grand Teton National Park. There is no maintained trail through the canyon, so hikers must  bushwhack 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.

Both of the Teton Interagency contact helicopters were out of the valley on fire assignments and unavailable, so five rangers responded on foot to assist Nielsen.

Due to the challenges of the terrain, park rangers were unable to use standard rescue devices such as a wheeled litter to carry Nielsen out of Avalanche Canyon. Instead, rescuers traded off physically caring Nielsen on their backs for short segments, slowly making their way down the canyon. Once they reached the maintained trail near Taggart Lake, rangers placed Nielsen in a wheeled litter to carry her the last 2 miles to the trailhead.

Park officials say that if the incident had occurred earlier in the day or if Nielsen’s injuries had been life threatening, rangers would have likely sought assistance from a helicopter.

Rangers were able to successfully complete the rescue Monday night arriving at the trailhead about 11:30 p.m.

The incident was the 17th major search and rescue operation of 2013 in Grand Teton National Park.

Contact Yellowstone Gate at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].

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