Climbing Fatality on the Grand Teton & Injured Hiker in Upper Paintbrush Canyon
    Date: July 15, 2014

  A climbing accident on the 13,770-foot Grand Teton resulted in the death of one member of a guided climbing party on Monday morning, July 14 , in Grand Teton National Park, according to the National Park Service.

Mary Bilyeu, 43, of Edmond, Oklahoma was ascending to the Upper Saddle of the Grand Teton (elevation 13,160 feet) with her climbing partner and a guide from Jackson Hole Mountain Guides when she fell while negotiating a short section above the Exum Gully about 8:30 a.m.

Grand Teton National Park rangers were notified of the accident at 8:40 a.m. Two park rangers on routine patrol at the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton (11,600 feet) climbed to the accident site to begin emergency medical care and prepare the injured climber for a helicopter evacuation. Bilyeu was unresponsive when park rangers arrived on scene and could not be revived. She was pronounced dead in consultation with the park’s medical director and park rangers on scene.

The circumstances leading to this climbing accident are under investigation by Grand Teton National Park rangers and no further details are available at this time.

Rangers began to coordinate a body recovery on the Grand Teton when Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a second emergency call at approximately 11 a.m. from a hiking party near Paintbrush Divide. Silas Peterson of Santa Fe, New Mexico, fell while descending Paintbrush Divide into Paintbrush Canyon and sustained multiple injuries. Although Peterson was using an ice axe, he slide down a steep snow-covered slope, could not self-arrest, and fell an additional 150 feet through steep loose rock. Peterson’s hiking partner called 911 to report the accident. Another party ascending from Paintbrush Canyon witnessed the event and hiked to Peterson to provide first aid until rescuers arrived.

A Teton Interagency contract helicopter readied to assist with the rescue operations on the Grand Teton was diverted to transport rescuers to Paintbrush Divide. Two park rangers were short-hauled to the Divide from the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache, and they descended snow and rock to reach Peterson at 11:45 a.m. A rescue litter was also flown to the scene. Peterson was provided emergency medical care and evacuated from Paintbrush Divide via short-haul with a ranger attending. Upon arriving at Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache, Peterson was treated by the park’s medical director before being transported via an Air Idaho life-flight helicopter to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, for further medical care. Peterson and his partner were on the final day of a six day Teton Crest Trail backpacking trip.

Both rescue operations were affected by the forecast and subsequent arrival of severe thunderstorms that pummeled the Teton Range and Jackson Hole valeey with lightning strikes and several waves of rain, hail and high winds.

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