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Climber Dies In Accident In Grand Teton National Park


For the third time in less than a week there's been a climbing accident in Grand Teton National Park. In the latest, a Montana man died from an 800-foot tumble in the Tetons.

Three climbers stood helplessly near the roof of Grand Teton National Park as their friend tumbled 800 feet to his death. The quartet was crossing between the South Teton and Cloudveil Dome when the Montana man slipped on the snow and was unable to halt his slide with his ice axe.

Fifty-five-year-old Chris Pazder, of Helena, slipped Saturday afternoon while crossing the south side of 12,320-foot Gilkey Tower. His fall carried him down over a steep slope of rock before he landed on a ledge on the north side of Avalanche Canyon.

Grand Teton climbing rangers were notified of the accident at approximately 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, when Pazder’s companions placed a cell phone call to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center to report the incident. Rangers immediately organized a rescue operation and requested the assistance of an interagency contract helicopter for air support.

The helicopter flew to Lupine Meadows, picked up several rangers, and undertook an aerial reconnaissance flight. Pazder was located from the air, and rangers were able to verify that he was deceased.

A ranger who was on routine mountain patrol in Garnet Canyon was diverted from his backcountry route to the accident scene. He reached the three members of Pazder’s party just before 5:00 p.m. and assisted them with the descent to their camp in the South Fork of Garnet Canyon. They were able to hike out of Garnet Canyon on Sunday morning.

Because of an incoming thunderstorm and the time of day, rangers decided to wait until Sunday to attempt to recover Pazder. At about 7:00 a.m. Sunday, helicopter operations and the recovery effort resumed. Rangers began their ground-based recovery operation on Sunday morning by flying six rangers to a landing zone near Lake Taminah, in Avalanche Canyon.

The rescue personnel had to ascend 200 feet of technical terrain to the ledge where Pazder came to rest. The recovery operation was completed by early Sunday evening.

This was the third climbing accident in Grand Teton since August 6, and the second located in Avalanche Canyon. On August 6 a 58-year-old Texan was rescued after an extensive effort by 65 searchers to find the man. Richard Felder, from Houston, was descending Avalanche Canyon on Tuesday morning, August 5, when he slipped on a snowfield just below Snowdrift Lake and tumbled at least 10 feet over a cliff. Felder received internal and head injuries, as well as several broken bones, and was unable to resume hiking. He spent an unscheduled night in the backcountry, enduring cold temperatures and his multiple injuries.

Officials say Mr. Felder, who suffered broken ribs, a compound arm fracture, and loss of blood from head and back wounds, would not likely have survived another night in the mountains. He and his wife, Patty, had been hiking the Teton Crest Trail together when they opted to separate from one another at 7 a.m. on Tuesday after camping in the south fork of Cascade Canyon.

While Mr. Felder chose to hike out of the Tetons via a traverse over Avalanche Divide, his wife continued to hike out the more traditional route through Cascade Canyon. They intended to meet at Jenny Lake sometime late Tuesday afternoon. When her husband failed to return by the appointed time, Mrs. Felder reported him overdue to park rangers at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. Rangers began to coordinate a field search for Felder and planned to get searchers on the ground at first light the next morning.

Felder was found Wednesday evening lying near some rocks at the base of a snowfield about a quarter-mile below Snowdrift Lake outlet; he became visible to the searchers after he waved his arm at the helicopter.

In the other accident, a Salt Lake City woman broke her right leg and some ribs Thursday when she was unable to slow her descent during a free rappel below the summit of the Grand Teton. She was lifted off the mountain by a helicopter.


On top of this, climbing guide George Gardner died on the Grand last month. Also, yesterday, there was a traffic fatality in the Grand Teton NP - a 16-year-old boy was a passenger in a single vehicle rollover; an 8-year-old boy has life threatening injuries.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

I notice you have posted stories on visitor deaths at Tetons and Grand Canyon but no mention of the two recent drawnings at Indiana Dunes. Is this part of your campaing that only national "parks" are worthy of discussion on this site?

Anon, it's interesting that you should mention drownings. This morning I've been working on an article about drownings and other water accidents at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It's one example of the numerous articles in Traveler that focus on the 333 national parks that don't happen to be among the 58 National Park-designated "elite." The nature of your comment leads me to believe that you are a new reader, so let me invite you to explore several months worth of Traveler articles (you don't have to read them; just scan through the listings) so you can get a better feel for what we do here at Traveler. Be sure to read our "About the Traveler" statement, which can be reached via the link in the Visitor Center menu at the upper right on Traveler's home page. We always like to hear from readers, Anon, so don't hesitate to give us the benefit of your suggestions and constructive criticism. I've made a mental note to write an article about Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore the first chance I get.

Anon---this website is a clearing house for information and opinions which gives us, the contributors, an opportunity to share information like the recent "drawnings" you mentioned in Indiana Dunes. We cannot expect the editors of this website to have the ability or time to be up to the minute with all of the things that are happening in a 391 unit system. Instead it behooves us to share what we know so as to better inform the readership of this website. It takes a village dude!

I wonder how those people drowned at Hoosier Dunes....were they wearing life vests? Was alcohol involved? Were they in an area they shouldn't have been? Fill us in anon. The adventurous souls who lost thier lives on the Grand no doubt were doing what they loved... a highly skilled activity. No doubt there are idiots who try and climb the tetons who have no business being there, but for the most part those that climb there certainly know what they're doing. I'd dare to say a good number of us who visit this site would salute those (and all) souls who died on that mountain, and respect the type of individual who pusues such activity. I've lived in the south and I've lived in Jackson, and let me just say this...nope never mind. I think my message is clear.

Well said, Bob, Beamis, and fhasti.
Everything can change in the blink of an eye. When my mom called from the Tetons on that Wednesday to tell me my dad was missing, I feared him dead because he does not get lost. He is also the strongest, fittest person I know, besides his soon-to-be son-in-law Ironman competitor. With decades of experience in climbing, hiking, and adventuring, including the Matterhorn and the Grand Teton (three times), none of us would have expected anything to ever happen to him. News of his rescue was a relief, but we found out soon after he would have to keep fighting for his life for some while. Of course, my dad is my hero, adopting me at 16 years old and now being a great "Papa" and role model for my young kids. Were it not for the heroic efforts of all those involved in Richard's search and rescue, however, we wouldn't have my dad now. The courageous men and women who do this great service in this and other parks are true professionals. We are grateful.

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