Weather keeps Tip Top Search and Rescue busy

Courtesy photos Members of tip Top Search and Rescue’s helicopter team help recover a hiker’s body after she had fallen more than 400 feet.

Sublette

County had a Labor Day weekend to remember

with the extremes in the weather.

“Tip Top SAR volunteers spent it

working their tails off responding to a variety

of rescue calls,” according to coordinator

Kenna Tanner.

The rescue responses began Saturday,

Sept. 5, with a call from Fremont County

Sheriff’s Office asking for assistance with

a climbing fatality on Pingora Peak. A female

climber had fallen approximately

400 feet off the South Buttress.

The precursor to the recent storm was

bringing strong winds and members of the

Short Haul team had to carefully work

into the Cirque of Towers in order to drop

off two members to assess and assist the

fallen climber and her partner. CPR was

performed for longer than 30 minutes by

SAR members and bystanders. Unfortunately,

the climber died due to injuries

from the fall.

Due to the rapidly approaching storm

and increasing winds, the decision was

made by Fremont County to wait until the

early hours of Sunday, Sept. 6, for Tip

Top SAR’s helicopter team to return and

bring the deceased to the Fremont County

Coroner. The winds were calm on Sept.

6 and the team had no issues preparing

a sling load for transport under the helicopter

on a static long line with a successful

rendezvous with Fremont County

officials.

“Tip Top Search and Rescue sends our

condolences to the climber’s family and

everyone that witnessed this unfortunate

accident,” Tanner said. The SAR team

noted that there was a high volume of

people both in the Cirque of Towers, as

well as climbing surrounding peaks.

Prior to returning to the Cirque of Towers

on Sunday to complete the Fremont

County assist, Tip Top SAR received two

altitude mountain sickness reports Saturday

night. Both were for persons who

were ill, unable to continue due to little

rest and not hydrating enough.

The Bridger-Teton Pinedale District

Ranger gave permission for the team to

access the ill patients with the team helicopter.

The first trip with a helicopter

team was above Kevin Lake in the Upper

Green for a 67-year-old male whose wife

activated an emergency beacon. He was

brought to awaiting medical staff at the

Pinedale Medical Clinic.

The next rescue, a 39-year-old female,

hiking solo and camped near Island Lake

was extricated and brought to the Pinedale

Medical Clinic. This request for a medical

rescue was reported by a USFS backcountry

ranger in the area. The ranger had

sat with woman during the previous night

to monitor her condition and help if possible.

On Sunday, Sept. 6, Tip Top SAR and

Sublette County dispatch were notified

of a personal locating beacon emergency

alert in the Dad’s Lake area, north of Big

Sandy Trailhead. The call came in after

dark and it was reported the male at this

location was suffering from symptoms of

altitude mountain sickness. The man was

unable to self-evacuate due to extreme illness

and dehydration.

Members of Tip Top SAR medical

team were flown to his location at sunrise

Monday to evaluate his condition

and provide assistance. It was determined

the man would not be able to hike out on

his own so he was flown to the Pinedale

Medical Clinic where he was evaluated

and treated.

During the early hours of Tuesday, Sept

8, Tip Top SAR members were alerted to

two pending calls. The first came right before

midnight and the second around 2:40

a.m. Both emergency notifications came

from separate parties during the storm

that blew through Sublette County during

the night and were needing rescued

from the aftermath of the wind and snow.

Downed trees and other hazards created

by the storm presented many challenges

for the SAR team. Plans changed hourly

as more information was gathered of the

damage the wind had created in the treecovered

access trails, Tanner said.

A solo hiker was hunkered down in

his tent near Cross Lake when the wind

shredded his tent, leaving him exposed to

the snow and ice as well as the low temperatures.

He had been traveling light, and

was in the middle of his trek from Green

River Lakes to Big Sandy. No movement

was noted during the night and information

collected by the TTSAR team was

that he had a pre-existing brain condition

that was of concern.

The second beacon came from a fatherdaughter

duo on horses. They had initiated

the emergency response at Crescent

Lake after becoming concerned for their

safety through the night with the wind

tearing at their tent and for the safety of

their three horses and one mule.

A SAR horse team was being assembled

through the night until the command

team got word of the impassable trails due

to the trees knocked down from the wind.

A 10-person team of SAR members

SEE INSIDE FOR THE ANNUAL HUNTING GUIDE

Weather keeps Tip Top Search and Rescue busy

From Tip Top Search and Rescue Coordinator Kenna Tanner

Courtesy photos

Members of tip Top Search and Rescue’s helicopter team help recover a

hiker’s body after she had fallen more than 400 feet.

and Sublette County Sheriff’s personnel

gathered at daylight and a plan was

made to access the wilderness boundary

near Wolf Lake with off-road vehicles

and chainsaws, via the Pocket Creek trail.

Once the team reached wilderness, they

split into two smaller groups to hike to

both Cross and Crescent lakes to evaluate

the individuals in distress. The teams had

use of a wheeled litter and horses to pack

gear. A helicopter team was placed on

standby in case there was a break in the

weather, as the winds were too sporadic

and violent to fly.

Joel Klosterman with the Bureau of

Land Management office used a chainsaw

to begin clearing the Scab Creek trail,

while the TTSAR and Sheriff’s Office

made their way up Pocket Creek.

At 12:23 p.m., the clouds near Wolf

Lake began to clear and a small window

allowed the helicopter team to launch

and arrive at the coordinates for the solo

hiker near Cross Lake. They located a tent

matching the description of the 51-yearold

male shredded to bits, with ice and

snow packed inside. They also found the

reported sleeping bag matching the right

color surrounded with wind-packed snow.

Despite being extremely cold, the man

was able to walk to the helicopter under

his own power and was taken to the Pinedale

Medical Clinic for evaluation.

The Communication Center in Houston,

Texas, noted the horse crew’s beacon

had begun moving towards Scab Creek

and had turned their emergency “911”

message to “OK” mode. This turns off

any tracking ability. The helicopter flew

to the coordinates of the original notification

of the father-daughter group to confirm

they had moved from that location.

After confirmation, the helicopter was

able to locate a man with a string of horses

on the Scab Creek Trail. He was unable to

travel any further with the massive number

of downed trees around the hill. His

daughter was able to find her way down

the trail without the horses and was found

by Klosterman.

She helped him return to her father’s

location to get the entire party out of the

mountains. They were in good condition

other than being scared and thirsty. The

SAR members working toward Wolf Lake

were informed to stand down and return

to the SAR building.

“Thanks to the Bousman family, especially

Joel, Susan, and Cotton, for not

only letting us access the gate for this

response, but for their labor and use of

their equipment, manpower and horses,”

Tanner said. “Thompson Outfitting camp

staff also arrived with Pocket Creek residents

to assist with chainsaws and manpower.

A big thanks to the BLM staff as

well as USFS seasonal staff for responding

to help at Scab Creek.”

Wednesday, Sept. 9, came with more

distress calls and Tip Top SAR was waiting

to assist a cold and wet hiker on the

Pole Creek Trail, but he was able to selfrescue

and made it to the Elkhart Park

parking lot. The helicopter was also requested

by the Fremont County Sheriff’s

Office to help with three rescues of nine

individuals stranded due to the snow and

temperatures. Tip Top SAR and the helicopter

were able to extricate hikers from

Deep Creek Lake, Valentine Lake and

to a location south of Atlantic City for a

stranded medical emergency. All of these

people were flown to the Lander Airport

at the request of the Fremont County

Sheriff.

“We were happy to help our neighbors

who not only had the horrendous winds,

but received snow in amounts from 2 to 5

inches rendering trails impassable,” Tanner

said.

“It’s hard to put into words the condition

of the mountains after this recent

storm,” she said. “The mass of tangled

trees is powerful in places. Please use

caution with your upcoming travels into

the backcountry. Please plan for extra

time to navigate to your destinations, and

have the proper clothing and provisions

for a drastic change in a short period of

time.”

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