GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK — On Tuesday evening, August 11, Grand Teton National Park rangers conducted a short-haul rescue of two uninjured, yet considerably fatigued, climbers from the Middle Teton. Nick Christu, 64, and his brother Eric Christu, 57, from Palm Beach, Florida, decided they were not able to continue their climb after getting off route while attempting to ascend the ‘Dike Route’ on the Middle Teton. Unable to locate the top of the Dike Pinnacle, a prominent feature of the route, the Christu brothers began down climbing and rappelling towards the South Fork of Garnet Canyon. Due to their uncertainty about the terrain they encountered, combined with their state of exhaustion, the Christus called park rangers at mid-afternoon to request a rescue from their predicament.
Upon receiving the first call for help at approximately 3:45 p.m., rangers made several attempts via cell phone to direct the Christu brothers into easier terrain so they could continue their descent. Those efforts failed due to the climbers’ level of fatigue and their inability to keep moving. Continued requests by the climbers for a rescue, combined with concern regarding their mental and physical state, prompted park rangers to determine that the best option for the Christu brothers’ safety would be to short-haul the pair off the mountain. A Teton Interagency contract helicopter was summoned, and the ship arrived at the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache at 5:00 p.m. One ranger was inserted via short-haul to prepare the climbers for an aerial rescue by placing them in an evacuation harness. The climbers were then flown in separate trips and delivered to the rescue cache at Lupine Meadows. The rescue mission concluded at 7:40 p.m.
Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual is placed in either an evacuation harness or a rescue litter and suspended below the helicopter on a 100 to 200 foot rope. This method is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter due to the rugged and vertical terrain.
Although many climbers consider the Dike Route—rated 5.5 –5.6 on the Yosemite Decimal System—to be an easy route, those attempting this option should note that it includes almost 3,000 vertical feet of climbing through complex terrain. Parties descending the route from points other than the summit of the Middle Teton (elevation 12,804 feet) must be prepared for attentive route finding through loose rock that is much more challenging and complicated than the standard descent route via the Southwest Couloir.
The Christu brothers reported to park rangers that they have 39 years of climbing experience in the Teton Range.
Grand Teton National Park rangers want to underscore the point that calling for a rescue is a serious request, with the outcome never guaranteed. It is important for climbers and backcountry travelers to recognize the risk they are creating to others when requesting a rescue.