A woman ended up stranded on a cliff for nearly 20 hours after she became separated from her climbing partner before summiting the Middle Teton, slipped on snow and fell 30 feet down a gully Saturday.
“The ledge she fell on was a very tiny space,” Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Denise Germann told the News&Guide. “She stayed awake all night for fear of falling.”
The climber, Deidre DeSantis, called for help at 7:45 p.m. Saturday.
“Park rangers were in contact with DeSantis via phone, but she was unaware of her location and her phone did not provide any GPS coordinates,” Germann stated in a release.
Around 9 that night, two rangers started hiking to DeSantis’ general location.
“Rangers were able to make voice contact with DeSantis at 12:30 a.m., but due to the faint calls and echoing canyon walls, were unable to pinpoint her location,” Germann said.
“Rangers maintained verbal communications and off-and-on phone communications with her throughout the night and into the early morning as they continued to try and locate her.”
As rangers continued their search before sunup Sunday, they kept their eyes on the weather forecast.
Rescuers were unable to spot DeSantis until they flew a helicopter over her location.
“At first light the Teton Interagency helicopter was able to make a reconnaissance flight and located DeSantis when they saw the light from her headlamp,” Germann said.
Her location surprised rangers, because DeSantis didn’t realize she had descended the South Couloir of the Middle Teton just west of Buckingham Ridge.
Rescuers dropped off a ranger at 8:15 a.m. Sunday via helicopter short haul.
Then severe weather forced the helicopter to land before rangers could short-haul DeSantis off the cliff.
A window of clear weather opened up around 11 a.m. and allowed them to fly three more rangers and equipment to the South Fork of Garnet Canyon.
Rescuers then hiked and climbed to reach DeSantis and provide help.
“Once on scene with DeSantis, rangers were able to assess her injuries and safely use ropes and technical rescue gear to raise her several hundred feet toward the summit of the Middle Teton,” Germann’s release stated.
The weather finally allowed the helicopter to perform a short haul around 3 p.m. Sunday.
DeSantis and a ranger were taken to Lupine Meadows, where a medical evaluation was conducted.
The 28-year-old was “extremely exhausted and cold,” and the climbing partner she’d been separated from drove her home.
DeSantis is from Pennsylvania but “works in the area,” Germann said.
“Park visitors are encouraged to hike and climb with a partner, including staying together and making decisions together,” she said. “Set reasonable objectives within the skill and experience level of the group.”
Germann said DeSantis and her hiking partner had proper climbing equipment. It’s unknown how the two became separated, but the plan had been to stay together.
“Consulting topographic maps, guidebooks and park rangers will help determine route difficulty and the skill level needed.” Germann said.