Tip Top sees busy start to July


SUBLETTE COUNTY — Tip Top Search and Rescue reminds everyone to prepare for the unexpected after seeing a busy start to the month, with three unrelated but successful missions taking place during the first few days of July.

On Friday, July 1, a hiker traversing the Twin Lakes area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, near Big Sandy, began suffering severe abdominal pain indicative of a medical emergency. Unable to continue his trek, the male called for help using a device enabled with inReach technology, which relies on satellite communication to help users navigate, track and share their journey while also giving them the ability to send SOS messages to a 24/7 global emergency response coordination center, located in Houston, Texas.

The Bridger-Teton Interagency Dispatch Center granted permission to Tip Top SAR to get involved using a leased helicopter so that rescuers could reach the man as soon as possible. He was flown directly to the Pinedale Medical Clinic, where he was evaluated by emergency medical personnel.

Five days later, on July 6, officials from neighboring Fremont County contacted Sublette County Dispatch to assist an injured climber who had fallen into a field of boulders and become stranded on the east side of Gannett Peak. According to the SAR team, the man was located at 10,200 feet elevation, prompting Fremont County to request the other agency’s assistance. While waiting for the rescue team, fellow hikers tended to the man’s injuries and were able to staunch the bleeding.

Top SAR members arrived and aided the man downstream, where the helicopter was waiting. He was flown to the Lander Hospital, where he received medical care.

No sooner was the man located near Gannett Peak than an additional request for search and rescue came into the Sublette County Dispatch Center. An injured climber was stuck on the western slope of Wolfs Head Peak within the Cirque of Towers.

SAR refueled the air ambulance at the Hunt Field Airport in Lander. From there, the team flew directly to the coordinates of the International Emergency Response Coordination Center.

The unidentified climber had broken both legs, fractured his wrist, and suffered facial injuries after summiting Wolfs Head Peak. Tip Top SAR conducted a recognizance flight of the area, located the man high above the valley floor, and accordingly altered the helicopter for a short-haul operation. Because the climber was situated on a narrow ledge approximately 50 feet below the other hikers, SAR team members said a complete immobilization of the injuries was impossible.

Instead, the adult male was placed in a suit used for rapid extrication and accompanied by his rescuer as the helicopter flew them back to the valley floor, where other SAR team members were waiting to help. They used a vacuum mattress to immobilize the injured climber for the flight to the Pinedale Medical Clinic, where he was stabilized. Air Med transported him to the University of Utah’s level one trauma center.

The man’s partner, uninjured in the ordeal and left without the necessary gear for a safe descent, was assisted down the mountain by fellow hikers.

Tip Top SAR is a nonprofit organization that relies on an operational team of about 40 members who volunteer their time to respond to calls for missing, overdue, and lost persons, medical evacuations, high-angle rescues, snowmobile accidents, lake rescues, and more.

As activity and the number of people recreating in the mountains continue to increase with the warming weather, SAR is urging the public to stay alert for predators, choose wisely when crossing water, and watch for hidden crevasses on glacier fields.

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