Practice rocks

Sydney Meyers rappels down a cliff as rain falls during a 2014 training day session near Grand Teton National Park’s Hidden Falls. Park officials have closed down the area because of a 125-foot-long fissure that’s developed in the rock buttress.

Grand Teton National Park rangers shut down Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point on Tuesday for fear that a fissuring rock wall could tumble down onto onlookers.

Growing cracks and fissures were observed in the large buttress above Hidden Falls used by guided climbers practicing for Teton ascents. There were notable changes in the cliff face between Monday and Tuesday, a potential safety hazard that prompted a temporary closure.

“Yesterday, Exum guides noticed cracks in the rocks,” Teton park spokeswoman Denise Germann said. “They communicated that to rangers this morning, and when they went to investigate they realized it had actually gotten bigger and expanded.”

The crack is about 100 feet long, she said, and runs horizontally along a rock wall that’s at least 100 feet tall.

“The whole area is prone to geological activity,” Germann said, “but this was a very notable difference.”

Park officials are searching for a National Park Service expert they can ship in to assess the risk of the potentially unstable rock wall.

For now, Exum Mountain Guides have relocated their practice school to another location. Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point — among the park’s busiest attractions — are totally off-limits until further notice. Access to Cascade Canyon is still possible via the horse trail along Jenny Lake.

Jenny Lake Boating is continuing its services ferrying tourists across Jenny Lake, which remains open generally.

“It’s a very busy season for us,” Germann said, “but out of an abundance of caution we believe the best thing to do is have an emergency closure.”

This version has been edited to correct the estimate of the crack's length.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067, or @JHNGenviro.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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