ATV accident

Rescue and law enforcement personnel carry Donna Joedicke, of West Virginia, to safety Friday after her ATV went off the Gros Ventre Road and tumbled down a steep embankment near Lower Slide Lake.

As midsummer draws hordes of backpackers to the Wind River Range, a string of four helicopter rescues made for an unusually busy week in Sublette County.

Of the 15 operations Tip Top Search and Rescue has performed so far in 2019, nearly a third came in a sudden burst over the past week, straining the volunteer organization. Officials attribute the inundation to overall high visitor numbers, especially as a late-arriving summer may be funneling vacationers  into the same short snow-free window of opportunity. 

“There’s just a lot of people out in the wilderness,” said Rob Hoelscher, Pinedale district ranger for the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Search and Rescue Coordinator Kenna Tanner said that more than the sheer number of calls, she was struck by how many have been due to altitude sickness. In most cases, she said, the people have been from low-lying states, and presumably didn’t give their bodies time to adjust to the elevation.

Virtually the entire range stands above 8,000 feet, the point at which most unacclimated people start to feel symptoms.

“If you haven't done some preparation to avoid high altitude issues,” Tanner said, “it can sneak up on you pretty quick.”

Teton County Search and Rescue has also seen a spike in rescues, with four in the past week or so.

Three of those came in the form of ATV misadventures. In the most recent, on Friday, a woman tumbled down a steep embankment near Lower Slide Lake after her ATV went off of the Gros Ventre Road. She suffered only minor injuries.


Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911 or

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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