Minnesota climber seriously hurt in fall at Grand Teton

A 60-year-old Minnesota man was seriously injured when he reportedly fell while attempting to make a solo summit of the 13,770-foot Grand Teton on Friday, authorities reported.

The injured man was identified as Steve Markusen, a Minneapolis resident. A news release described Markusen’s injuries as “life threatening.”

Grand Teton National Park rangers were able to rescue Markusen despite “dense clouds and inclement weather (that) affected the rescue operations throughout much of the afternoon and hindered a more expedient short-haul rescue mission with support by a Teton Interagency contract helicopter.”

Free climbing alone — without a climbing harness, rope or helmet — Markusen had reached an elevation of 13,300 feet on the Grand Teton and was climbing midway between the Friction Pitch and V-Pitch on the upper Exum Ridge route when the accident occurred, the release said.

“Although Markusen was unable to recall exactly what happened, he believed he may have been struck by a rock, which caused him to fall or tumble possibly 100 feet down the steep, granite slabs strewn with loose rock that lie above the Friction Pitch,” the release said.

Two climbers in a separate party came upon Markusen, but did not have a cellphone to call for help. They continued to the summit of the Grand Teton, about 400 vertical feet beyond, where they located other climbers with a cellphone and called the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.

Initially, Markusen was to be taken by air ambulance to Eastern Idaho Medical Center in Idaho Falls for treatment, but inclement weather conditions in Idaho prevented the Air Idaho flight.

So, Grand Teton rangers, emergency medical technicians and paramedics set up a temporary emergency room inside the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache to stabilize Markusen, the release said, before transporting him by park ambulance to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyo.

Park rangers advise climbers to wear helmets and carry appropriate climbing gear whenever making a summit attempt. Rangers also advise against solo climbing because of the added risk in the event of an accident.

The current weather pattern — involving a monsoonal flow of moisture over Grand Teton National Park and northwestern Wyoming — is causing significant afternoon thunderstorms with heavy rain over the Teton Range. Park rangers advise climbers to be prepared for the challenging weather conditions.