Mountain Town Roundup: Wild storm in Grand Teton results in death, massive rescue effort | VailDaily.com

Mountain Town Roundup: Wild storm in Grand Teton results in death, massive rescue effort

Robert Allen
summit daily news

AP Photo, Daily Sitka Sentinel, James PoulsonThree brown bear cubs follow their mother after the sow was shot with a tranquilizer dart Tuesday July 27 in Sitka, Alaska. The bears were trapped in an unused clarifier tank next to the Fortress of the Bear bear habitat at the former ALP mill site. Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game officials fitted the sow with a radio collar and tagged all four bears before releasing them back into the area.

Three brown bear cubs follow their mother after the sow was shot with a tranquilizer dart Tuesday July 27 in Sitka, Alaska. The bears were trapped in an unused clarifier tank next to the Fortress of the Bear bear habitat at the former ALP mill site. Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game officials fitted the sow with a radio collar and tagged all four bears before releasing them back into the area.

Three brown bear cubs follow their mother after the sow was shot with a tranquilizer dart Tuesday July 27 in Sitka, Alaska. The bears were trapped in an unused clarifier tank next to the Fortress of the Bear bear habitat at the former ALP mill site. Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game officials fitted the sow with a radio collar and tagged all four bears before releasing them back into the area.ENLARGE

Alaska Bears

Three brown bear cubs follow their mother after the sow was shot with a tranquilizer dart Tuesday July 27 in Sitka, Alaska. The bears were trapped in an unused clarifier tank next to the Fortress of the Bear bear habitat at the former ALP mill site. Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game officials fitted the sow with a radio collar and tagged all four bears before releasing them back into the area.

(AP Photo, Daily Sitka Sentinel, James Poulson)

Responders rescue 16 in largest rescue effort in Teton history

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JACKSON, WYO. – Grand Teton National Park rangers are investigating whether 21-year-old Brandon Oldenkamp’s climbing harness was properly attached to his rope when lightning knocked him off the Grand Teton and to his death July 21.

Oldenkamp was the only fatality from an intense storm of snow, hail and rain that shocked and injured 16 others near the summit of the 13,770-foot peak. The fury developed around noon, grew quickly in its intensity, hit the peak with at least six lightning strikes and lasted for more than an hour, rangers said.

In their largest rescue ever, Jenny Lake climbing rangers used a helicopter to pluck seven victims from about 13,200 feet and flew out nine others. The nine-hour marathon involved climbing through waterfalls and lightning, precision flying, evacuation of patients hanging beneath an airship, plus triage and first aid.

In all, 92 emergency workers collaborated in the effort that extended from the rangers’ Lupine Meadows rescue cache at 6,700 feet to near the summit, according to a list provided by the park. The success was marred only by the mystery of Oldenkamp’s disappearance.

Members of his party told rangers he appeared to be securely attached to a rope and on belay when lightning knocked him off the mountain from near the Belly Roll boulder on the Owen-Spalding Route. Rangers are investigating whether the victim might have attached the climbing rope to a gear loop on his harness rather than a point designed to hold body weight.

– Angus M. Thuermer Jr./Jackson Hole News and Guide

56-year-old guide summits Rainier for 500th time

MOUNT RAINIER, Wash. – At 6:10 a.m. (Pacific time) Saturday, George Dunn became the first person to summit Mount Rainier 500 times.

The 56-year-old guide and director of Ashford’s International Mountain Guides and six other members of his party left Ingraham Flats at about 11,000 feet shortly after midnight. They faced snow, wind and a lightning strike on their way to the 14,411-foot summit.

Also reaching the summit with Dunn was his long-time friend, Phil Ershler. Ershler has the second-most Rainier summits getting his 440th that morning.

Dunn climbed Rainier for the first time in the late 1960s, while attending Renton High. He started guiding for in 1975. he has guided climbs around the world, including Mount Everest in 1991.

The News Tribune reports only three men have climbed Mount Rainier 400 times and only eight have 300 summits.

– The Associated Press

Paintball course attracts unwanted guests: bears

BILLINGS, Mont. – A newly opened paintball course in Montana had to shut down after odor from disintegrated paintballs was luring possibly dangerous guests: bears.

Big Sky Marketing Director Dax Schieffer says the resort tried to find an environmentally friendly paintball. But it turned out that the one selected contains a vegetable oil that can attract grizzly and black bears that commonly roam the region.

A wildlife official said some bears were even eating unexploded paintballs.

The resort is on the side of a ski hill, and opened earlier this summer. It shut down in mid-July after the bear problem arose.

Schieffer says workers are now trying to find a paintball that won’t attract bears.

– The Associated Press

Feds removing toxic wastes in Montrose

MONTROSE – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is removing thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals from the now-defunct Elizabeth Mining and Development Inc. in Montrose.

“The worst thing we have found is a little over 6,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid,” Al Lange, on-scene coordinator for the EPA’s Region VIII, said Tuesday as contract crews moved barrels of sodium nitrate to a staging area.

The EPA’s Christopher Wardell said there is no immediate danger to the public, but teams are undertaking a “time-critical removal” lest acids stored at the EMDI facility on 63.00 Road leak into nearby drainages and waterways.

Highly flammable chemicals are also stored at the site, defunct since owners Joseph and Steven Casebolt were indicted in 2007 on state charges related to hazardous waste disposal and fraud.

The 35-acre site sits on the floodplain of the Uncompahgre River, just across the road from the Delta-Montrose Electrical Association. A housing development and dairy are close by.

“If [wastes] were left here, the potential is that they could be released into the environment and threaten nearby businesses and residences,” said Wardell, the EPA’s community involvement coordinator for Region VIII.

– Katharhynn Heidelberg/Montrose Daily Press

Starving bear shot after invading camper

VALDEZ, ALASKA – A camper shot and killed a black bear sow after the starving bruin repeatedly tried to enter his sleeping quarters last Saturday morning.

John Gibbs, a four-month employee of South Central Hardware, had been making camp at a site in Old Town. He was sleeping in his camper early Saturday morning when he was woken up by a ruckus created by the bear trying to enter his summer home.

Gibbs said he tried to chase the bear away but the sow was persistent and tried to re-enter his camper.

“She decided she wanted to come in,” John Gibbs said, “I shot her in the mouth.”

Police confirmed the bear sow was killed in defense of life or property, a DLP bear in police parlance. “He fired one round and killed it,” said Chals Shumate,

“It was extremely emaciated,” said Challs Shumate, the officer called to the scene after the shooting. “It appeared very old.”

It was not Gibbs’ first encounter with the old sow, which was not nursing or mothering cubs at the time of death.

“I’d had problems with her when I was in the tent,” Gibbs said, which was why he had been sleeping in the camper. The old bear had previously shredded his tent. “I didn’t really want to shoot her.”

Shumate gave Gibbs paperwork the state requires people to fill out after shooting wildlife in defense of property. Gibbs is also required to skin the bear and turn the skull and skin – with claws attached – to wildlife officials.

“Her teeth were broken down and stuff,” Gibbs said, “There was gray on her muzzle and her head.”

– Lee Revis/ Valdez Star