A Salt Lake City man who separated from his three partners while attempting the Cathedral Traverse in Grand Teton National Park died from a fall of roughly 500-600 feet, according to park officials.
Climbing rangers found the body of Eric Tietze, 31, about 3:30 p.m. Friday after a daylong search of the central Teton peaks by ground and air. Mr. Tietze and three climbing partners were attempting to complete a climb of the Cathedral Traverse on Thursday when he separated from his group and moved ahead of them on the route, accoring to park reports.
The man apparently fell about 500-600 feet to his death shortly after leaving his friends. Mr. Tietze, a long-time Bridger-Teton National Forest employee, has worked 10 seasons on the forest's trail crew.
Park officials say the Utah man separated from his partners as they were completing the final rappels off of a shoulder peak west of Teewinot Mountain. The last time Mr. Tietze's party saw him was about 10:30 a.m. His group continued the climb and summited Mount Owen where they waited for their friend. After he failed to meet his group on the summit, the three partners backtracked and attempted a search for their friend until 7:30 p.m.
Mr. Tietze's party notified Teton Interagency Dispatch Center of their missing friend at 10 p.m. after they hiked out to the Lupine Meadows trailhead. The park's search and rescue coordinator for the day began organizing a SAR operation that would begin at first light Friday morning, and two rangers on a routine backcountry patrol on the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton were subsequently contacted.
Early Friday morning, the two rangers climbed from the Lower Saddle to the second ledges on the North Face of the Grand Teton and began searching with binoculars for Mr. Tietze. A Teton Interagency contract helicopter responded to the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache at 7:30 a.m. Friday to conduct an aerial search as well. Two separate hour-long reconnaissance flights were conducted of likely areas where the climber may have traveled; however no conclusive evidence of Mr. Tietze's possible whereabouts was provided by these reconnaissance flights.
A second Teton Interagency contract helicopter responded to Lupine Meadows just before 11 a.m. With the help of a second helicopter, rescuers decided to focus on two specific areas. One helicopter was sent to a landing zone on the Teton Glacier located in the cirque of the Grand Teton, Mount Owen, and Teewinot Mountain. The second ship was assigned to base out of a landing zone in lower Valhalla Canyon located northwest of the Grand Teton.
The ship based out of Valhalla Canyon flew one rescuer, who was suspended on a short-haul rope below the helicopter, and dropped the rescuer down into crevasses and moats that cleave the permanent snowfields. The second helicopter based from Teton Glacier flew additional reconnaissance flights with three rangers inside the ship. Due to conditions and hazards in these areas, park rangers determined it would not be safe to insert rescuers onto snowfields for a ground-based search.
Rangers located Mr. Tietze's body on the East Prong feature between Teewinot and Mount Owen about 500 feet below an area that requires a notably challenging climbing move. One ranger was inserted via short-haul to the location and prepared the man's body for a short-haul extraction. The body was flown from the mountain to Lupine Meadows where it was turned over to the Teton County coroner's office at 8:50 p.m.