The National Park Service says three men, Drew McCord, 32, of Houston; Kevin Livingston, 37, of Afton, Wyoming; and Patrick Callihan, 24, of Jackson, Wyoming, necame disoriented and inadvertently skied into Granite Canyon within Grand Teton National Park. They had intended to ski Rock Springs Bowl in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, but lost their way because of poor visibility just after leaving the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski area boundary.
The National Park Service says Teton County Search and Rescue initially received the call for assistance from McCord’s girlfriend around 6:30pm on Christmas Eve. She reported receiving a text message from the men stating they were in trouble and needed help. Upon realizing the party was within Grand Teton National Park, the call was forwarded to park rangers at approximately 7:00pm. Though initial communication with the men was difficult, they hiked back uphill into an area with better cell phone reception and were able to communicate directly with park rangers by text around 10:00pm.
Using this direct communication, rangers were able to confirm the men were uninjured and had the ability to dig a snow cave and build a fire. Given the darkness of the hour, rangers planned to ski in the following morning when conditions would be less hazardous for rescuers.
At first light Christmas morning, two park rangers were joined by two members of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Ski Patrol to begin the rescue. After riding the tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, the four rescuers descended into the Targhee Woods area where they located the missing party’s ski tracks. They followed the tracks and located the men in the area commonly referred to as “Cam’s Run.” The party was able to text their coordinates to the rescuers, which aided in their location.
The National Park Service says park rangers escorted the cold, but uninjured men down Granite Canyon. Given the considerable avalanche risk, the resort’s ski patrol closed the back country gates above the descent route. Despite this safety precaution, the rescuers encountered multiple parties who had violated the closure thus putting the rescuers at increased risk of being caught in a skier-triggered avalanche. The group returned to Teton Village at approximately 1:15pm.
NPS said on their website, “Park rangers commend the men for remaining calm during the incident, staying together, initially attempting to return the way they had come, and their ability to light a fire and build shelter. The men were equipped with basic back country ski gear including avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels. However, the men had very little food, water, extra clothing layers, or other emergency equipment.”
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