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Lander resident injured in fall on Mount Owen

Jun 26, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Park rangers used a helicopter to extricate Jeff Judkins and his climbing partner.

Jeff Judkins, 38, of Lander, sustained multiple injuries from a fall while climbing the 13,000-foot Mount Owen in Grand Teton National Park at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Park rangers used a helicopter to extricate Judkins and his climbing partner at about 5 p.m. using the short-haul method.

Park spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said Judkins and his experienced climbing partner from Jackson were scaling a challenging 11,200-foot ascent called the Crescent Arete. A door-sized rock broke free as Judkins hoisted himself onto it, sending the man tumbling down for 15 feet where he struck a sloping ledge.

He fell another 5 feet before his climbing protection stopped him. The falling rock did not strike Judkins or his partner.

Two park rangers suspended on a rope below a helicopter were inserted onto a nearby ledge. They prepared the two climbers for a short-haul extrication, and pulled them out in harnesses hanging below the helicopter.

The rescuers brought the two men to Lupine Meadows where there is a rescue cache and road access, Anzelmo-Sarles said. The alpinists left on their own for a hospital.

Judkins could not be reached by press time.

The Crescent Arete ascent rates 5.7 on the Yosemite Decimal system and is adjacent to the popular Northeast Snowfields route up Mount Owen.

Anzelmo-Sarles said climbers rarely choose the arete ascent because it is difficult and there are no retreat routes.

A report from the park said Fred Beckey and Patagonia-founder Yvon Chouinard first ascended the Crescent Arete in September 1959.

Judkins's fall came in the middle of a bitter day for rescuers in the national park.

Minutes after rescuing Judkins, Rangers were called to assist Gary Miller, 55, of Colorado Springs, Colo., according to a park report. Miller was descending the Lower Saddle on a guided climb when he fell into an icy moat.

Guides had pulled him out of the water before rangers arrived, and a helicopter extricated him to Lupine Meadows. A ranger attended the man during the flight, and additional medical staff met the crew at the rescue cash.

Despite their efforts, Miller was pronounced dead at 8:35 p.m.

Grand Teton Park rangers, a park ambulance and Jackson Hole emergency crews responded to a cardiac arrest report at 11 a.m. that same day in Buffalo Valley. After rescuers attempted resuscitation for almost an hour, the 56-year-old male was pronounced dead.

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