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Fatality in Solo Attempt of North Ridge of Grand Teton

July 21 2004 at 10:06 PM
roger  (Login dipper)

Response to July 2004 Accidents/Rescues

Piecing together clues, from an alarm clock to a backpack, rescuers found and retrieved Tuesday the body of a climber who fell as much as 1,000 feet while attempting the Grand Traverse.
Grand Teton National Park rangers recovered the body of Dwight Bishop, of Butte, Mont., Tuesday evening after a two-day search, which involved more than 50 rangers and volunteers combing 13 miles of ridge line and 11 peaks in the park. Rangers believe he slipped while climbing the North Ridge of the Grand, a climb rated at 5.8 on the Yosemite Decimal System, without a rope and fell to the bottom of the Grandstand, the 13,770-foot peak’s north sholder.
Bishop had told a friend that he would attempt a solo, one-day traverse Friday of the technical route between Teewinot Mountain and Nez Perce called the Grand Traverse. The coveted route involves climbing the major peaks in the center of the range and involves climbing the north side of the Grand.
On Monday morning, three days after his planned departure, Bishop’s friend and climbing partner, Fred Donich, reported the 49-year-old climber overdue.
Park rangers quickly located Bishop’s car at Lupine Meadows Trailhead. Inside, they discovered a pair of crampons, a cell phone and an alarm clock set for 2 a.m. Rangers also had learned that Bishop had spoken with his mother Thursday.
All clues pointed to a predawn departure Friday for the Grand Traverse, said Andy Fisher, the park’s chief ranger.
Rangers then dispatched a contract helicopter to fly the route, as soon as weather permitted, to look for tracks in the snow and search the most likely areas Bishop might be found. Three teams, including park and Bridger Teton National Forest employees, searched on the ground until dark.
Rangers also hung posters with a picture and description of Bishop to see if other climbers had seen him. At 5-foot-7-inches and 145 pounds, Bishop was fit. He also was an experienced climber, who had completed the Grand Traverse at least once before, park officials said.
At 6 a.m., Tuesday, park rangers more than doubled the rescue effort with 50 searchers, including Teton County Search and Rescue volunteers and five teams of search dogs. A second helicopter from Yellowstone National Park also assisted. Another 20 workers coordinated the search from the ground.
Teams fanned out across various segments of the Grand Traverse, working in technical and dangerous terrain, to find Bishop.
Searchers got a break when two climbers in Valhalla Canyon on the west side of the Grand Teton discovered Bishop’s backpack. The two climbers had encountered searchers earlier in the day and knew rangers were looking for Bishop. The climbers opened the pack and found notes on the Grand Traverse, Anzelmo said.
The climbers then ran into two park rangers searching for Bishop in Valhalla Canyon and showed them the pack, Anzelmo said. The rangers called in a helicopter, which spotted Bishop’s body at 6:20 p.m. while en route to meet the rangers, Anzelmo said.
The pack was about 50 feet from Bishop, who was found at 11,000 feet. Bishop had successfully climbed Teewinot and Mount Owen and was between Mount Owen and the Grand Teton when he fell, Anzelmo said.
“We will never know for sure, but it is likely that he fell as much as a 1,000 feet,” Anzelmo said. Searchers found no rope in Bishop’s pack or on his body.

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