Tragedy in the Grand Tetons is a warning to stay on firm footing

Even with the best of plans, tragedies happen. A mountain side is too steep, the terrain too rugged, one turns left instead of right, and a person can take a tumble. That’s what happened on Tuesday when two hikers veered slightly off-course on Teewinot Mountain in the Grand Teton National Park. One of them slipped and tumbled 300-feet. The tumble killed him.

According to Kurt Repanshek’s post in the National Park Traveler, the two men, Eliot Kalmbach and Jon Winiasz, both in their early twenties, hadn’t planned to do any major climbing so they weren’t wearing helmets or carrying climbing gear. They had talked to park rangers to find out where they should hike before they headed out a couple days before the accident and were following the rangers’ suggestions except that they mistakenly headed across a steeper section of Teewinot after a night of camping at Lupine Meadows. That’s where Kalmbach fell.

Fortunately, Winaisz was able to reach Kalmbach to use his cell phone to call for help. Kalmbach, however was already not breathing and didn’t have a pulse. Thankfully, the rescue of both men took less than three hours. Winaisz was lifted out within two.

This story reminds me of a similar one that happened years ago when one of my husband’s close friends fell to his death in Glacier National Park. My husband worked with this friend at the park’s Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier and remembers exactly what it was like waiting for the body to be recovered. His friend’s death is something he recalls as being one of the worst events of his life.

I can’t imagine what Winiasz is going through after what sounds like a blissful adventure with a friend turned into a trip that he’ll never forget for such a horrible reason. How very sad.

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