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LABOR DAY ROCKFALL IN THE TETONS
Posted on: September 6, 2007
[Photo] Roy Miller
My wife, Sally, and I spent Labor Day climbing in the Tetons. Our goal was the Complete Exum. I was supposed to be off work mid-day on Friday: we would enjoy the drive from Boise, pull into the valley as the sun was setting. We ended up leaving on Saturday, and eventually we found ourselves at the moraine, which was surprisingly uncrowded. The Ranger told us that only one or two parties had come in for a permit wanting to do the Exum. This was shaping up to be a great weekend.
[Photo] Roy Miller
I have no idea what the problem was, but neither of us could sleep Saturday night. The alarm went off at 5 a.m., and I turned it off. We talked about getting up later, taking our gear up, stashing it and making an early go the next day. We finally got out out of the tent around 9 a.m. and thought we should go for it. We decided to do the Owen-Spalding instead; it was getting late, and I was worried about parties on the Exum. I had looked at a topo of the Owen a few months back and thought I could remember it. We left around 10 that morning. Talk about perfect—we had the summit to ourselves and no lines on the rappel. We were scrambling down from the lower Saddle, with only fifteen minutes of knee-busting descent between us and our wine, when it happened...
We heard a huge crack we thought was thunder. But the rumbling kept coming. We both looked up, and I was in awe: a huge rockslide was right over us. All I could do was yell "run!" We took cover behind a boulder, and I snapped a couple of pictures. I thank God we were outside the fall zone, maybe by fifty feet.
I have to give credit to my wife for the pics as well. She was tucked in behind a rock, and the camera was tied to her pack—she had to stand so I could take the pictures. She looked at me in horror as I kept yelling "stand up" so I could get a photo. I snapped a couple before the canyon filled with smoke. Luckily no one was hurt, and we got back, had dinner, enjoyed the wine and another sleepless night. Every time I heard rock fall, I jumped in my bag. I have never experienced anything like that, and hope to never again.