The climber found dead at the base of the Black Chimney mountaineering route on Teewinot Mountain in Grand Teton National Park has been identified as Hitoshi Onoe, a 42-year-old IT engineer who was vacationing in Jackson.

His cause of death hasn’t been determined, according to Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue, who provided the Jackson Hole Daily with details about Onoe after his family was notified.

Besides his name, profession and age, Blue provided that Onoe had been staying at an Airbnb in town. He was a Japanese national who worked in San Jose, California.

Grand Teton National Park representatives have not said what route Onoe was climbing, though many climbers regard the general area where he was found as hard to navigate.

The National Park Service is investigating the accident and has released little information about what happened aside from details included in a Saturday evening news release.

Climbing rangers responded Saturday after a separate climber ascending Teewinot reported finding a deceased man at the base of the Black Chimney. Onoe was likely alone and planning to climb the East Face, based on a marked map found with him, the release said.

Park spokesman CJ Adams told the Daily that the incident leading to the man’s death likely occurred Friday, and rangers were notified around noon Saturday.

The park recovered his body with a helicopter.

Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr said climbing Teewinot is far harder than it may appear.

“It’s so easy to underestimate it,” he said. “You’ll read the guidebooks and they’ll say it’s fourth class climbing and, yeah, if you’re right on route it is, but it’s nearly impossible to stay right on route and that’s where people underestimate it and get into big-time trouble.”

Teewinot has claimed a number of lives over the years, most recently in May 2018 when a Jackson nurse appeared to have slipped and fallen on a high-angle snowfield.

Route finding up the East Face, a 5,600-foot, fourth-class climb that many people attempt without ropes because of its classification, is notoriously difficult.

“It’s very underrated,” said Jim Woodmencey, a Mountain Weather meteorologist who also worked as a Jenny Lake climbing ranger for 14 summers. “It’s real easy to get off-route there. There’s so many ledges and goat paths from people zig-zagging up the East Face.”

The Black Chimney is a variation of the East Face and rated 5.6: More difficult than the typical East Face ascent.

Two Jackson women died in August 2015 in the area after getting off-route and falling off a ledge.

Leigh Ortenburger and Reynold Jackson’s book “A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range” warns that “careful routefinding is essential” on the East Face.

Ortenburger and Jackson say there is a “steep rotten section” in the Black Chimney variation that “often has black ice in it.”

“At best, the Black Chimney is a treacherous place because of the rotten rock,” they write.

Alexander has reported on courts and crime since June 2021. A fan of all things outdoors, he came to Teton County after studying journalism at Northwestern University.

Teton County Reporter

Billy Arnold has covered government and policy since January 2020, sitting through hours of Teton County meetings so readers don't have to. He moonlights as a ski reporter, helps with pandemic coverage and sneaks away to climb when he can.

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