More information released on climbing fatality in Grand Teton National Park
Exum Mountain Guide Gary Falk fell approximately 2,400 feet to his death during summit climb on the Grand Teton
by Grand Teton National Park
July 24, 2016
MOOSE, WYOMING An investigation by Grand Teton National Park Rangers into the death of Exum Mountain Guide Gary Falk on Saturday, July 23, has revealed some information that may have led to this climbing fatality. Through personal interviews with Exum clients and employees, and others that were in the vicinity of the incident, the investigation indicates:
All four clients that Falk was leading successfully summited the Grand Teton on Saturday, July 23, 2016,
The first client successfully rappelled down the Owen-Spalding Rappel,
The rappel device that the first client used was to be used again, and was sent back up to Falk via rope,
The rappel device got wedged on the way up,
Falk unclipped his tether from the anchor to reposition himself to better access the wedged rappel device,
Witness accounts could not identify alternative methods Falk used to attach himself to the mountain, and
It appears that Falk fell as he was trying to free the wedged rappel device.
Park rangers will continue to investigate the fatality and anticipate a final report in approximately 30 days.
Saturday, July 23
Grand Teton National Park Rangers responded to two major incidents today. At approximately 10:30 a.m. Teton Interagency Dispatch Center was notified that an individual fell in Valhalla Canyon and was believed to be seriously or fatally injured. Park rangers responded with a reconnaissance flight to survey the situation and two rangers from that flight were inserted in the area via helicopter and hiked to the scene. It was determined that the individual was deceased and a recovery effort was initiated.
The individual was identified as Exum Mountain Guide Gary Falk. Falk was leading a group of clients to summit the Grand Teton. On the descent, Falk fell from the top of the Owen Spalding Rappel into Valhalla Canyon near the Black Ice Couloir. Falk fell approximately 2,400 feet. Falks body was recovered via helicopter long line and Teton County Coroner declared Falk deceased Saturday afternoon.
Another Exum guide assisted the clients with their descent. Exum Mountain Guides is a concessioner with Grand Teton National Park.
Falk, 42, from Ouray, Colorado, has been working for Exum Mountain Guides for 12 years. He has a wife and two young sons. Exum President and co-owner Nat Patridge said, "The Teton Guiding community is devastated with this lost. Gary was a diligent guide, always the consummate professional. Exum is grieving from this news and struggling to comprehend the situation. All Exum operations will be closed Sunday, out of honor and respect for Gary. Our love goes out to Kate and their sons."