Search Continues For Missing Backcountry Skiers in Grand Teton National Park
A search for two missing backcountry skiers at Grand Teton National Park moved into its third day Wednesday as crews got some better weather conditions than what they've had so far.
Wednesday dawned with clear skies and sunshine, though clouds started moving in by mid-day, said park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs.
"The weather is really good today.Ironically, we've got some high clouds right now, but we had some clear skies this morning and the sun was hitting it," she said.
At least 20 rangers were in the Tetons on Wednesday searching for Walker Kuhl, 27, of Salt Lake City, and Gregory Seftick, 31, of Columbia Falls, Montana, park officials said.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.
Tuesday's efforts, which included teams using snow probes and helicopter crews looking for signs of the two, proved fruitless.
"We just don't have anything to report yet. We're still looking," Ms. Skaggs said Wednesday. "The foreast is calling for increasing clouds this evening, and possibly snow by tomorrow. We're trying to make the most of today, not knowing what tomorrow might bring."
Among the searchers were two dog teams, and there was the possibility of another canine team being added Wednesday afternoon, she said.
The men were properly equipped for backcountry travel with ice axes and avalanche beacons, according to another backcountry party they encountered Saturday. While Mr. Kuhl and Mr. Seftick also had cellphones with them, efforts by their families and friends to contact them by phone calls and texts have been unsuccessful, the park spokeswoman said.
"If we don't have success today, we're planning to go the same strategy tomorrow," said Ms. Skaggs. "The things that may cause us not to be able to do that is whatever happens with the weather and the changing snow conditions."
Though efforts so far have not given teams much hope, the park spokeswoman said there are "so many what ifs?" The men might have dug a snow cave to escape the weather, and it might have gotten buried with them safely inside, or they might be higher up in the mountains than thought, she said.
"There's so many things that could have happened, so that's why we're holding out hope," said Ms. Skaggs. "We're still looking for them and hoping to find them and bring them to safety."