Rangers Conduct First Mountain Search and Rescue of Summer 2012 

Date: June 7, 2012

Grand Teton National Park rangers conducted the first short-haul rescue of the 2012 summer season late in the afternoon on Wednesday, June 6, according to the National Park Service.

 Danielle Mendicino, 21, of Las Vegas, Nevada was attempting to summit the 10,552-foot Albright Peak with a climbing partner when she slipped on snow and fell some 50 feet, coming to rest in a rocky talus field.

Park rangers were completing a day of short-haul training when Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received the call for help just before 5 p.m. Two rangers boarded a Teton Interagency contract helicopter from the training and located the injured climber.They determined they would land the helicopter on the summit of Albright Peak. At 5:50 p.m. one ranger exited the ship on the summit and descended about 750 feet, reaching Mendicino within 20 minutes.

The ranger stabilized Mendicino’s injuries and prepared her for a short-haul extraction in an aerial evacuation suit. At 7:05 p.m. Mendicino was flown via short-haul to the historic White Grass Dude Ranch where she was met by a park ambulance just five minutes later and transported to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming.

Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual is suspended below the helicopter on a 100 to 200 foot rope. This method allows a rescuer more direct access to an injured party, and it is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain. Patients are typically flown out via short-haul with a ranger attending to them below the helicopter.

Rangers estimated that it would have likely taken 12 rangers approximately 10 hours to perform a ground evacuation over rough, steep, and difficult terrain, exposing many more rangers to the hazardous terrain.

Mendicino was carrying an ice axe, but was unable to self-arrest. Additionally, Mendicino was not properly equipped for her intended trip; she was wearing tennis shoes, and did not have experience on snow, according to Park Service officials.