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Grand Teton Rangers Honored for Rescues

Five Jenny Lake Rangers from Grand Teton National Park and a former seasonal ranger received Department of the Interior Valor Awards on Tuesday at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Renny Jackson, Chris Harder, Jack McConnell, Dave Bywater and Steve Rickert received the award for their 2004 participation in a technical rescue on Denali that proved to be life-saving. Ranger Ed Visnovske received the award for his role in a 2002 Yosemite rescue. The Department of the Interior presents the award to those whose actions have been judged to be heroic.

On May 20, 2004, Korean climber Ho Cho sustained severe head injuries in a fall high on Denali’s West Buttress (Alaska Grade 2, 50 degrees, 13,100′). His teammates descended to the 14,200′ camp to seek out assistance, leaving Cho to spend a rather exposed night at 18,200′. Park rangers assembled a rescue team that included Bywater, Harder, Jackson, McConnell and Rickert, as well as two British climbers. The team climbed to the 17,200′ high camp in just over three hours, where Rickert and Bywater erected tents and constructed wind breaks from snow. The remainder of the team continued on to find Cho semi-conscious and frostbitten.

Rejoined by Rickert and Bywater, the rescuers proceeded to spend 18 hours arduously lowering the injured man to high-camp–through howling winds, blowing snow and significantly impaired visibility. The following day, the continued foul weather necessitated a further 3000′ of technical rope lowering to the 14,200′ camp, where Cho was evacuated by helicopter.

Tuesday was the third time Jackson had received the Valor Award and the second time for Harder, McConnell and Rickert.
Jackson was honored for his role in rescues on the Grand Teton in 1981 and 1985, while Harder and McConnell were two of eight recipients of the honor for their participation in the rescue of five injured climbers from the Friction Pitch of the Grand Teton after a lightning strike. Rickert previously received the award in 1991.

Ed Visnovske, former seasonal ranger, was involved in a 2002 rescue in which a rockfall-injured climber was raised 300 feet from the ledge on which he lay before a helicopter was able to lift him to safety.

“This was a difficult, technical rescue that demanded a high level of skill, caution and proficiency to execute,” Yosemite Emergency Services Manager Keith Lober said in a release. “Ed was instrumental to the rescue operation.”

Editor’s Note: Alpinist is grateful to the Jackson Hole News and Guide for the information in this story. Click here to read their coverage of the Valor Awards.