Incident Reports

June 20, 2013
Multiple Emergencies & Climbing Fatality in Grand Teton National Park

  GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK NEWS RELEASE:  June 21, 2013           13-39

National Park Service - U.S. Department of the Interior

Grand Teton National Park - Moose, Wyoming

Multiple Emergencies & Climbing Fatality Caused Active Day for Rangers


MOOSE, WY — Thursday, June 20 became another rigorous day for park rangers at Grand Teton National Park. Numerous rangers responded to a cardiac arrest incident in Buffalo Valley, while other rangers handled two back-to-back rescue missions in the Tetons; one resulted in a fatality.

Teton County requested assistance from Grand Teton National Park rangers for a cardiac arrest underway in Buffalo Valley around 11 a.m. A park ambulance and six rangers jointly responded with Jackson Hole Fire/EMS personnel to the incident location. The 56 year-old male was pronounced dead after nearly an hour of resuscitation efforts.  

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call for help from a location on Mount Owen (elevation 12,928 feet) just before 2:30 p.m. for an injured climber. Jeff Judkins, 38, of Lander, Wyoming and his climbing partner were on an ascent of the Crescent Arête (elevation 11,200 feet) when a door-sized rock broke free as Judkins was pushing himself onto it. Judkins fell about 15 feet before impacting a sloping ledge below. He continued to fall roughly five additional feet before his climbing protection caught him. Luckily, neither Judkins nor his partner was stuck by the rock as it fell.

Two park rangers were inserted via short-haul to a nearby ledge just before 5 p.m. and they prepared the two climbers for short-haul extrication from the accident site to Lupine Meadows. This rescue was completed at 5:15 p.m. The Crescent Arête is adjacent to the Northeast Snowfields route on Mount Owen, and is an uncommon climb due to its technical nature. It is rated a 5.7 on the Yosemite Decimal System. Fred Beckey and Yvon Chouinard made the first ascent of this climb in September of 1959.

Moments after completing the first mountain rescue, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received another call for help after a climber fell into a moat in the North Fork of Garnet Canyon. Gary Miller, 55, from Colorado Springs, Colorado was descending from the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton, after a successful summit of the peak earlier in the day, when he slipped on snow and slid into an icy water moat near a rock band. Miller was on a guided climb by one of the park’s authorized concessioners. Climbing guides successfully extricated Miller from the moat before rangers arrived at the site.

Six rangers were flown to a temporary landing zone near the moat location in Garnet Canyon. Rescuers raised Miller to a site where he could be flown in a rescue litter via short-haul to Lupine Meadows by a Teton Interagency contract helicopter. A ranger attended Miller below the helicopter on the flight to the park’s rescue cache. Once at the rescue cache, they were met by a team of park medical providers led by Dr. Will Smith of St. John’s Medical Center, and an Air Idaho Life Flight ship waiting to provide transport to critical care in Idaho Falls. Miller was pronounced dead at 8:35 p.m. at the rescue cache and his body turned over to the Teton Country coroner.

Additional details about the climbing fatality are not available pending completion of an incident investigation.