UPDATED: Oklahoma Woman Dies From Climbing Accident At Grand Teton National Park
Editor's note: This updates with the fatality being the first for Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, adds that it's the second fatality in the park this year.
An Oklahoma woman hoping to summit the Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park was killed when she fell negotiating a short section of the climb below the Upper Saddle at an elevation of 13,160 feet, while a backpacker on the last day of a week-long Teton Crest trip was injured in an unrelated accident nearby.
Park officials said Tuesday that Mary Bilyeu, 43, of Edmond, Oklahoma, was climbing with her partner and a guide from Jackson Hole Mountain Guides when she fell Monday about 8:30 a.m. Climbing rangers who were on a routine patrol near the Lower Saddle responded to the scene and began to prepare the woman for a helicopter evacuation from the mountain, a park release said.
"Bilyeu was unresponsive when park rangers arrived on scene and could not be revived," the statement continued. "She was pronounced dead in consultation with the park’s medical director, A.J. Wheeler, and park rangers on scene. Other Jackson Hole Mountain Guides staff responded to the area and escorted Bilyeu’s climbing partner to the Corbet High Camp near the Lower Saddle, and later escorted her to Lupine Meadows trailhead on the valley floor."
Details of the woman's injuries were not immediately available, although it was known that she had her helmet on. The fatality was the first for Jackson Hole Mountain Guides since it went into the guiding business in the park in 1968.
"They have a good, very impressive safety record," said Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs, adding that the company's staff was devastated by the accident.
The fatality was the second in the park this year. In May, an Alaska man was killed while snowboarding in the Tetons. Joseph Lohr, 24, of Anchorage, and two friends had summited 12,325-foot Teewinot Mountain and were descending when he fell about 1,500 feet, park officials said at the time.
Meanwhile, about 11 a.m. Monday, while rangers were working to coordinate the recovery of Ms. Bilyeu's body, another emergency call was received, this one from a hiking party near Paintbrush Divide.
"Silas Peterson of Santa Fe, New Mexico, fell while descending Paintbrush Divide into Paintbrush Canyon and sustained multiple injuries," the park release said. "Although Peterson was using an ice axe, he slid down a steep snow-covered slope, could not self-arrest, and fell an additional 150 feet through steep loose rock."
A Teton Interagency contract helicopter readied to assist with the rescue operations on the Grand Teton was diverted to transport rescuers to Paintbrush Divide. Two park rangers were short-hauled to the Divide from the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache, and they descended snow and rock to reach Peterson at 11:45 a.m., the park reported. The hiker was taken off the mountain via a short-haul operation, and received initial medical attention at the Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache before being flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho for further medical care. Peterson and his partner were on the final day of a six-day Teton Crest Trail backpacking trip, the park release said.