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Backcountry Hiker Falls 300 Feet To His Death in Grand Teton National Park


A 24-year-old Pennsylvania man has fallen to his death while hiking in Grand Teton National Park. NPS photo of the Tetons.

A 24-year-old Pennsylvania man hiking in the backcountry of Grand Teton National Park tumbled 300 feet to his death on Teewinot Mountain.

Eliot Kalmbach and his partner, Jon Winiasz, 23, of Vermilion, Ohio, were traversing a steep slope on Teewinot when Mr. Kalmbach fell and tumbled approximately 300 feet and sustained fatal injuries. Because the two men only intended to hike and scramble, neither was wearing a helmet or carrying climbing gear, according to a park release. The two men had only been in the park a few days before the accident Tuesday afternoon.

When they arrived in the park, they consulted with rangers about various backcountry hiking and climbing possibilities. They hiked to Delta Lake on Sunday, September 20, and climbed the Southwest Couloir on Middle Teton on Monday. On Tuesday morning, they parked at the Lupine Meadows trailhead and hiked up a portion of the Apex Trail to reach and explore the east flank of Teewinot, according to park officials. During their excursion, they got off course and onto a more vertical slope than they intended, and Mr. Kalmbach accidentally fell while trying to scramble across technical terrain, the park reported.

After Mr. Kalmbach came to rest, Mr. Winiasz scrambled down to him and realized that his friend was unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse, the park reported. Mr. Winiasz used his friend's cell phone to call 911 and the emergency call was transferred to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 1:28 p.m. Tuesday.

Park rangers summoned the contract helicopter that was already working in the vicinity, and used the ship to pinpoint the hikers’ location from the air. Rangers determined that no suitable landing spot was available from which they could stage a mountain-based rescue operation, so they conducted a short-haul mission from the park’s rescue cache at Lupine Meadows on the valley floor.

One ranger with emergency gear was inserted via short-haul into the accident site at 3:30 p.m. Upon arriving, he confirmed that Mr. Kalmbach was deceased. A second ranger was inserted with a rescue litter, and the two placed Mr. Winiasz into an evacuation suit for a short-haul flight to the Lupine Meadows rescue cache. The helicopter made a second flight at 4:30 p.m. to evacuate Mr. Kalmbach. Teton County Coroner Bob Campbell then met the rangers at Lupine Meadows to transport the man's body by vehicle to Jackson, Wyoming.


It should be known that Eliot was a very experienced hiker and climber, it seemed to me as if he was trying to hike every great natural wonders of this country and even the world. He was a true rugged outdoorsman, and had plenty of experience from his geosciences background. Unfortunately this was not enough to prevent whatever happened up there, it may have been a careless fall. I hope it is a lesson to everyone reading, planning trips, and adventuring out there that no matter how far you've gone, however much experience you have, you can never be too careful. Eliot was a joy and a true lover of the amazing wonders of this world. His energy, passions, and laughter will not be forgotten. Hopefully it can be a warning to everyone to always double check themselves. While many people have said to me "he died doing what he loved" that is simply not a fair way to go.

Jon W. I 'm sure you miss your friend, I will miss him too I in last few years got to know him as well, and he was a great conversationist and outgoing person. but how could you allow yourselves to be out there with out safety equipment, lest I say, selfish to risk such a loss to him and all his friends and family especially. You may speak your mind if you wish to me Jim at ::: [email protected]

I had looked forward to when Eliot retuned home to PA to learn about all the exciting things he had done. his family was always so happy to have him back and the friends around him. Too. all you other hikers, PLEASE think about your families, and what losing you does to them, at least be safe and avoid the extra risk.

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