PINEDALE – Tip Top Search and Rescue (TTSAR) had its first rescue mission last weekend after two climbers were successfully short-hauled off of Ellingwood Peak in the Wind River Range. Both climbers returned from the peak uninjured.
On June 1, around 10:30 a.m, the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office received a phone call from two climbers who explained they were stranded on the north side of Ellingwood Peak, located in Indian Basin. Ellingwood Peak has an elevation of 13,052 feet, and the climbers said they were approximately two-thirds, or 8,700 feet, up the face of the peak and were unable to ascend or descend.
TTSAR Administrator Jason Ray spoke with the climbers and explained rescue options for the following day, depending on the weather.
Though the helicopter contract, provided by Classic Aviation, was not scheduled to begin until June 15, the Sublette County Board of Commissioners agreed to extend the contract due to the pressing need of the situation.
On the morning of June 2, TTSAR members Tony Chambers, Shawn Streeter, Ty Huffman, Delsa Allen, Wes Allen and Ray prepared for a manual rescue of the two climbers.
Around 9:20 a.m., Chambers and Streeter flew reconnaissance over the scene, but had to return due to poor weather conditions. After reviewing details of the scene, the search and rescue team decided to short-haul the climbers off of the mountain face.
“Short-haul is a technique used by rescuers to insert and extract personnel by using a rope that is attached to the belly of the helicopter,” a TTSAR press release stated.
With thunderstorm cells plaguing the area, the team was forced to wait until after noon to attempt the short-haul rescue. Between thunderstorms, Ray and pilot Neal Jenson delivered a backpack of supplies to the climbers via a long-line rope.
“The backpack contained food, water, sleeping bags, a radio, instructions for rescue and a few other essentials that helped buy extra time for both the rescuers and the climbers,” the release noted.
By 3 p.m., “with sunny skies and light winds, the team had about an hour before the next thunder cell would be upon them,” the release stated.
Streeter was short-hauled from a landing zone at the base of Ellingwood Peak to the scene of the two climbers, followed by Ray, and they put the two climbers into screamer suits.
“A screamer suit is a large triangular shaped rescue device that slips around and underneath a person so that they can be lifted into the air without any danger of them slipping out of the suit,” the release explained.
By 3:50 p.m., the short-haul mission was complete and the climber’s gear and other supplies were retrieved by Streeter and Chambers.
“I just want to give my thanks not only to TTSAR, but also to the commissioners for expediting the approval of an early arrival of the helicopter,” Freddie Botur, one of the stranded climbers, told the Roundup.
Botur is a Big Piney resident and explained that, even though the situation could potentially have proved fatal, the experience was “pretty exciting” and made all the more exhilarating by the professionalism of TTSAR.
“I’ve climbed all over the world, but never had to make that call,” Botur explained. “In the end, it turned out to be pretty exciting. [TTSAR] were so awesome and super positive.”