UPDATE: Thanks to the persistent week long efforts of a variety of local and national agencies, search and rescue personal have located and extracted the bodies of Walker Kuhl and Gregory Seftick from Garnet Canyon today. Their bodies were located under 13′ of avalanche debris, packed up against a boulder and still in their tent. For more information, please visit the Grand Teton National Park news website.Â Garnet Canyon is now open to ski-touring. May you rest in peace Walker and Greg.
Garnet Canyon Closure on Saturday.
Please click HERE for more information.
UPDATE:It is being reported that faint beacon signals were heard yesterday from deep in the debris field of an avalanche on the north side of Nez Perce. Rescuers are in the canyon today trying to locate the source of the signals. This hopefully will give some closure to this tragic event.
UPDATE: There’s not much more to report so far on this SAR mission. Yesterday teams got a bit higher on the mountain and the helicopter flew for quite some time, but there have not been any sightings or evidence of Greg and Walker. The search dogs got a couple “hits” in one of the avalanche debris piles below The Meadows and the rescue personnel have been focusing on that area with probes and shovels, since they didn’t get any signals when they did a beacon check. The debris pile must be rock solid by now, so I’m sure probing and shoveling is very difficult. One theory is that the pair may have been in their tent with their transceivers off when an avalanche came down on them. The weather looks to be pretty wet today (Thurs), which might hamper search efforts.
After a suspended aerial search of the Garnet Canyon region yesterday, a reported 40 personal set off today to begin an intensive â€œgrid-searchâ€ for missing persons, Gregory Seftick and Walker Kuhl. Seftick, age 31 from Columbia Falls, MT, and Kuhl, age 30 from SLC, UT, were visiting Grand Teton National Park with intentions of climbing the Grand Teton, but their plans may have changed due to current weather and snow conditions in the Teton Range. They obtained a camping permit for Garnet Canyon on Saturday and were reported to have been seen at the mouth of Garnet Canyon at 3pm the same day. The party had planned to exit the backcountry on Sunday, but when Kuhl didnâ€™t return to work on Monday, the pair was reported missing.
Coincidentally and not knowing about anyone being missing, my partner and I happened to be in Garnet Canyon yesterday (Monday) and after seeing the article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide this morning, I called the rangers to report what I had seen. This is more-or-less what I saw and told them.
It seemed as though we were the only people venturing into the backcountry from the Taggart Lake trailhead on Monday, and Iâ€™m sure the rain in town and recent warm temps didnâ€™t get people too stoked to go skiing. However, it was snowing quite hard when we arrived at the trailhead and there was 2-3â€ of new snow on the ground, on top of a slight frozen crust. Below that, the snow was pretty iso-thermic from the warm temps and rain reported above 10kâ€™ on Sunday. The snowpack wasnâ€™t pretty, but we pushed out of the parking lot hoping things would get better as we gained elevation.
The skinning started off nice and easy, but we did note a large wet slide (A) on the headwall just above the west shore of Bradley Lake. There is some rocky terrain in that area and the snow Iâ€™m sure is quite faceted on that part of the headwall. I typically stay away from this part of the headwall when descending to the lake, as it often can be hazardous.
As we continued higher up, we noticed numerous small wet-slides on both the north and south-facing sides of the canyon. None really looked dangerous, but I wouldnâ€™t have wanted to have been run over by them either. About midway to The Meadows, yet still below The Platforms, I did see what appeared to be fresh-ish tracks on the south-side of the canyon and the typical exit route people skiâ€¦maybe from Sunday afternoon. As we skied past The Platforms, all signs of ski tracks, up or down, had been whipped away by the wind and snow.
We continued towards The Meadows, but were quite surprised when we encountered another slide and quite a large amount of avalanche debris (B) that appeared to have come off the north side of Nez Perce. This also looked to be a wet-slide and appeared to have started in an area that is not really conducive to skiing. But, the debris pile was right where everyone skis as they move into The Meadows region of the canyon.Â The snow was now coming down hard, but we pushed higher.
We skinned up canyon and then towards the Hourglass Couloirs of Nez Perce. Our intended route was the West Hourglass Couloir, but the current conditions and the looming steep headwall one climbs to gain access into the couloir looked dangerous, so we set our sights on the shorter, East Hourglass couloir. Still skinning and about two switchbacks in as I was breaking trail, the slope fractured about 20-30 above me and began to slide. I was hyper-aware of the situation, and was able to quickly step backward and out of the way of the moving debris. Both of us unscathed, we figured we had pushed things far enough, pulled the plug and skied down canyon.
We didnâ€™t really see anything different or new as we skied down to Bradley Lake, but I did try to â€œski lightâ€ as we descended the final headwall above the lake, probably the most hazardous part of the day considering the warm and wet snowpack. Â We saw no real sign of any camp during the entire day and my guess is that most of the slide activity occurred on Sunday, when it rained above 10kâ€™.
I hope there is a positive outcome to this event and I wish good luck and safety to all the parties involved in the search. The is a ton of new snow in the high country right now, and, at least in the near future, any breaks of sunshine will probably only make things more hazardous. -Steve