Injured climber in Grand Teton rescued by helicopter

Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued an injured climber Tuesday after he slipped and slid 150 feet on a rock slab.

Charlie Emerson, 31, of Marietta, Ga. was climbing alone when he slipped and slid approximately 150-200 feet before coming to rest in a snowfield at the base of the rock feature, just above the Meadows area of Garnet Canyon in the heart of the Teton Range.

Two Grand Teton employees who were conducting a research project in Garnet Canyon witnessed Emerson’s sliding fall and immediately began hiking to his location, according to a statement released Wednesday by the park’s public affairs office.

The employees were certified as emergency medical technicians, and were able to effectively assess Emerson and provide emergency medical care until park rangers could arrive by helicopter. A separate backcountry party also reached Emerson and placed an emergency call for help via cell phone.

Because wet snow sloughs were shedding off areas above the accident site, the responding park researchers moved Emerson to a more secure area.

A rescue helicopter flew to the Jenny Lake rescue cache located near the base of the Teton peaks at Lupine Meadows and picked up two rangers for transport to Garnet Canyon. After the ship landed on a snow-covered area near the incident site, the two rangers traversed about 200 yards to reach Emerson and place him in a rescue litter.

They carried Emerson back to the helicopter and flew him to the Jenny Lake rescue cache, where he was then transferred into a waiting park ambulance and transported to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson for further care of his multiple injuries.

Park officials said Emerson did not receive a head injury, despite not wearing a helmet. They caution that rock features in Garnet Canyon can be easy to ascend, but are often more difficult to descend. As rock slabs melt out, they can be covered with slippery silt or sand, which makes good traction more challenging.

Rangers remind backcountry users to know their skills and limitations and to not exceed their abilities in questionable conditions, such as rock slabs with wet surfaces or areas experiencing snow sloughs and/or wet slab avalanches. Rangers also recommend that climbers wear a helmet whenever they are attempting to ascend or descend a cliff area or rock face. Helmets are a sensible choice even when climbers are scaling what they perceive to be a relatively easy route.

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