Grand Teton National Park rangers had a busy week with a pair of helicopter retrievals, including one involving a night out for rescuers and an injured hiker.
Natalie Ulloa, a 17-year-old from Houston, fell Wednesday descending the Southwest Couloir on the Middle Teton after a successful summit. A ranger in the lower Garnet Canyon area received the call around 5:40 p.m. that Ulloa had injured her leg, a park press release said.
Two rangers began hiking from the Lupine Meadows trailhead, while another pair climbed the Middle Teton from the Lower Saddle and began to descend toward Ulloa and her group. With Ulloa unable to hike out on her own, rangers attempted a helicopter rescue, but high winds prevented that operation.
With a short haul not an option, two rangers spent the night with Ulloa while two walked out with the remaining four members of her group.
“The hike down was challenging due to terrain, snow and ice,” the press release said, “and the skill set of the individuals.”
Teton park spokeswoman Denise Germann said some, but not all, of Ulloa’s group members were carrying ice axes and crampons. She stressed that the park encourages all high-elevation hikers and climbers to carry an ice axe and crampons and know how to use them.
On Thursday morning, high winds again kept rangers from rescuing Ulloa with the helicopter, so six rangers carried her down to the Meadows in Garnet Canyon, where the helicopter was able to land around 2:30 p.m. during a break in the wind. She was moved to Lupine Meadows, where an ambulance met rescuers and took her to St. John’s Medical Center.
Shortly after, around 5 p.m. Thursday, rangers received another call. A pair of hikers near the Son of Apocalypse Couloir at the mouth of Death Canyon pulled loose rocks from the base of a cliff, and a large rock hit Daniel Henderson, 22, of Hancock, Michigan, causing multiple injuries.
One ranger hiked up to Henderson and his climbing partner, then the Teton Interagency helicopter short-hauled him to the White Grass Dude Ranch. An ambulance took Henderson to St. John’s for treatment.
Rockfall and changing snow conditions remain dangers due to spring-like conditions at high elevations.
“It’s a good time of year to have that lightweight ice axe along when you’re going into these canyons where you might encounter a descent on snow,” Jenny Lake ranger Rich Baerwald said.
With temperatures predicted to stay above freezing at night, even at 10,000 feet, snowmelt should continue and high-alpine routes will become less snowy. However, it could take weeks for the standard routes on the highest Teton peaks to completely melt out.
“Crampons and ice axes are definitely recommended this time of year,” Baerwald said, “and for the foreseeable weeks ahead.”