Avalanche Hazards Overshadow Search and Rescue Effort in Grand Teton National Park
An early spring snowstorm that accelerated the threat of avalanches was slowing search efforts Tuesday in Grand Teton National Park's backcountry for two men who failed to return from a weekend trek.
More than a dozen rangers headed into the backcountry on skis Tuesday morning to look for Walker Kuhl, 30, of Salt Lake City, and Gregory Seftick, 30, of Columbia Falls, Montana, park officials said. Another two dozen or so personnel were supporting their efforts with radio communications and whatever the ground teams might request.
The two overdue men had set out Saturday for an overnight trip in the Tetons. Their permit registration indicated they intended to explore Tepee Pillar and Tepee Glacier near the Grand Teton. When Mr. Kuhl failed to show up for work as scheduled Monday, his girlfriend notified authorities late Monday morning.
After the men's vehicles were found at the Taggart Lake Trailhead, an initial air search -- prompted by unstable snow conditions that would have made it too hazardous for ground teams -- was launched Monday afternoon but failed to detect any trace of the two. Park officials said erratic winds and poor visibility pre-empted a thorough search and at sunset teams were forced to suspend the operation until Tuesday morning.
According to park authorities, both men have some knowledge of the Teton backcountry and have previously climbed and skied in the Teton Range. They carried avalanche equipment with them and were familiar with the use of such equipment, the authorities added.
Avalanche conditions in the Teton Range the past few days were rated as “considerable” by the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center, meaning that human-triggered avalanches were likely. Tuesday’s avalanche report stated that moderate danger exists in high elevations above the 9,000-foot elevation and low danger for mid to low elevations from 6,000 feet to 9,000 feet. Six to 7 inches of new snow fell overnight at the 9,300 and 9,580 snow plot stations on Rendezvous Mountain, the park reported.