One of the most daring stories in Wyoming history – the North Face rescue on the Grand Teton – is a tale that many haven’t heard yet. Recently, a
National Parks podcast told the world about one of the most remarkable moments in Grand Teton National Park.
In the 1960s, mountaineering and rock climbing was still a niche sport. There weren't any rock gyms, and climbers were seen as part of a counter-culture in the mountains of the United States.
One of the most popular climbing destinations in the country was Grand Teton National Park. It offered dozens of technical routes, stunning scenery, and a welcoming community of alpine climbers.
For years, the North Face of the Grand Teton was considered one of the most challenging climbs in the world.
This intimidating route was technical, dangerous, and on many climbers' bucket lists. It was first ascended in 1936, but it had eluded many climbers in the years following.
Lorraine Hough and Gaylord Campbell were attempting the route and had nearly completed their climb on Aug. 21, 1967 when disaster struck.
Just below the summit, large rocks broke loose and sent Campbell tumbling down the rocky face. He was injured badly.
Hough made a splint with her ice pick and wrapped her partner in a sleeping bag, and began to cry for help.
She flashed "SOS" with her flashlight, but never saw any response. There was no way for her to make it down the face with Campbell on her own. Miraculously, two climbers heard cries for help from the North Face while they were climbing Mount Owen. They raced down to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station and reported to Ralph Tingey. They showed up at Tingey’s ranger cabin door to report that while on Mount Owen, they’d heard cries for help from the North Face.
Ralph Tingey, just 22 years old, called out to the other rangers and began to assess the situation. There had never been a rescue on the North Face.
Tingey saw Hough's flashlights and responded in kind, but she was never able to make out his response. As the pair spent their first night on the Grand, she was unaware that a team of talented mountaineers was making their plan. Tingey, along with other rangers Pete Sinclair and Rick Reese, park employees Ted Wilson and Mike Ermarth made up the rescue team. It just so happened that world-class mountaineers Leigh Ortenburg and Bob Irvine were on the summit of the Grand and quickly descended to help the efforts.
The rangers were air-lifted to a ledge on the North Face and began their daring rescue attempt.
The only way to help Campbell was to lower him 2,000 feet to the Teton Glacier, where a helicopter could remove him. He was placed in a stretcher to stabilize his broken leg, and the rescue began. They radioed for the needed supplies, and had to spend a night on the mountain waiting for the helicopter to deliver the needed rope, cables, and morphine. The next day, they were able to carefully descend 1,100 feet.
The climbers spent one more night on the Grand Teton, before the final day when they reached the Teton Glacier. The team worked for hours to create a spot for the Helicopter to pick up Campbell, and he made it to the hospital that evening.
The rescue team headed back down to the Jenny Lake cabin, where they found a case of beer waiting for them. After three exhausting and dangerous days on the North Face, they had achieved what many thought was impossible, and saved Gaylord Campbell's life. They never heard from Campbell after that - until he criticized their rescue in a documentary. Campbell claimed the climbers should have carried him out backpack-style, which would have been quicker, but would have put his life at risk due to a chance of severing arteries in his leg.
Learn more about the story of this death-defying rescue on the Grand Teton by watching the trailer for "The Grand Rescue" VIDEO
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