Climber dies in 1,000-foot fall in Grand Teton National Park

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 23, 2012 7:09 PM
Climber dies in 1,000-foot fall in Grand Teton National Park

CODY, Wyoming (Reuters) - A mountain climber in Grand Teton National Park in northwest Wyoming fell 1,000 feet to his death while descending from a summit, officials said on Monday.

Justin Harold Beldin, 27, and two climbing partners had reached the summit of the 12,804-foot Middle Teton and were beginning to descend at about noon on Sunday when the accident occurred, said officials with the National Park Service.

Another group of climbers saw Beldin fall and alerted park rangers and his climbing partners, who did not witness the accident.

Beldin's death is the fourth backcountry fatality this year in Grand Teton National Park. A Utah man died on July 12 from a fall while climbing Teewinot Mountain, and two local skiers died in a March avalanche on Ranger Peak.

Beldin was originally from California but had been living in Victor, Idaho, since April and was working about 20 miles east of there in Jackson, Wyoming.

Thunderstorms and heavy rains on Sunday afternoon grounded a search helicopter, but not before searchers found the site of the fall and determined Beldin had likely died, said Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs.

Dense fog on Monday morning further hampered recovery efforts, preventing helicopter flights to the rugged and iconic mountain and delaying a plan to have rangers hike to the point where Beldin's body was spotted, Skaggs said. Searchers recovered his body on Monday afternoon, she said.

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The Middle Teton is one of the most popular climbs in the Teton Range. Beldin carried an ice axe on the climb, but he was not wearing a helmet, according to park officials.

(Reporting By Ruffin Prevost: Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Jackie Frank)