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A Look Back On Search-And-Rescue History In Grand Teton National Park


Ranger Renny Jackson on March 12 will provide a historical perspective on search-and-rescue missions in Grand Teton National Park. NPS photo.

If you're going to be in the vicinity of Jackson, Wyoming, next Thursday you might be interested in a talk about the search-and-rescue history of Grand Teton National Park.

SARs, as these incidents are referred to in the searcher's vernacular, are some of the most interesting, frustrating, and deflating aspects of national parks. Each year there are thousands of SAR missions in the National Park System, and far and away most are resolved successfully. A small number end up with a fatality.

Next Thursday, the 12th, Renny Jackson, the Jenny Lake sub-district ranger, will provide some insights into three decades of SARs at Grand Teton. The program, which is free to all comers, will be offered at the Cook Auditorium in the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which is just two miles north of Jackson on the west side of U.S. 89.

Over the past five decades, rescue operations conducted by Grand Teton rangers have involved some difficult and complex situations. From one of the earliest rescue missions conducted in the Teton Range on Thanksgiving Day of 1950, when a DC-3 plane crashed into Mount Moran, killing 21 people, to a 2003 rescue operation where six climbers were hit by lightning on the Grand Teton, requiring an intricate and well-coordinated helicopter evacuation, and the most recent tragic incident in 2008 when a Helena, Montana, resident died in fall on the south side of Gilkey Tower, skilled and highly-trained rangers have responded to assist injured people in the alpine and backcountry areas of the park.

Ranger Jackson plans to present an overview of the evolution of mountain rescues by recounting three different rescues on the North Face of the Grand Teton from 1967, 1980 and 2002. Through the lens of these incidents, the ranger will focus on the story of how mountain rescue operations have changed over time.

Jackson has served as a climbing ranger at Grand Teton for the past 30 years and he is expected to share a wealth of knowledge and personal experience about the progression of mountain rescue in the Teton Range and beyond. He just recently returned from a month-long trip to the Solu-Khumbu region of Nepal, where he participated in an international clinic near Mt. Everest, instructing Sherpas and other local climbers bout mountain rescue techniques.

Ranger Jackson has received the Department of the Interior’s Medal of Valor Award on three separate occasions for the critical part that he played in technical rescue missions in the Teton Range and on Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park. He also just received a 2008 Stewardship Award from the National Outdoor Leadership School.

The ranger’s retrospective on mountain rescue also highlights Grand Teton National Park’s 80th anniversary — the park was established on February 26, 1929. In tribute to the park’s milestone anniversary, birthday cake will be served after the program.


I was lucky enough to sit in on a brown bag lunch presentation by Ranger Renny Jackson while attending training at Grand Teton National Park. Ranger Jackson is in incredible speaker and shares his vast amount of experience with an ease that can only come with complete confidence in your training. I highly recommend listening if you have the opportunity - it will swell your chest with pride knowing such amazing people wear the green and grey.

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