"The Grand Rescue" Tells True Story of Legendary Grand Teton Rescue
In 1967, on the North Face of the Grand Teton, seven rescuers risked their lives to save a severely injured climber and his companion. The rescue took three harrowing days, pushed the team to the edge of its abilities, and cemented a lifelong bond. Remarkably, once safe, the injured climber publicly criticized the very men who risked their lives to save him. Looking back after 40 years, the rescuers and survivors recount with unabashed candor the story of a rescue that became legendary.
KUED presents The Grand Rescue, a film by independent Utah producer Jenny Wilson, on Wednesday, May 25 at 7:00 p.m.
On August 22, 1967 around 2:00 p.m., a young graduate student and his female climbing companion became stranded on a narrow ledge 13,000 feet high. A boulder had broken free and showered the climbers with falling rocks, leaving Gaylord Campbell with protruding compound fractures.
The seven young national park rangers quickly went to work, relying on innate skill, instinct, and trust. History was about to be made. The rescue was the first one on the feared North Face – an unprecedented rescue for its time, due to the climber's severe injuries and the unknown terrain.
“The Grand Rescue humbles us to the majestic Grand Teton, exposes the tenuous relationship of man and the mountain,” says Wilson, “and reveals the endurance of the human spirit and recounts one of the most famous rescues of its time.”
According to Wilson, the film is as much a story about the dynamics of the rescue team as it is about the technical feat of the unprecedented rescue.
The rescuers include her father, Ted, who at the time had just returned from climbing in the Alps. Ted Wilson went on to become the mayor of Salt Lake City, a move that surprised his climbing friends. The filmmaker says she grew up hearing the story from her father and the inspirational men who were part of the rescue.
Ralph Tingey, considered the purest rock climber of the team, was deeply admired by his team. It was Tingey who discovered there was a party stranded on the North Face. After the rescue, he became a permanent park ranger in the Grand Teton. Mike Ermath, the intellectual of the rescue team and a superb climber, was working on his PhD at The University of Chicago at the time of the rescue. Rick Reese, known as the team’s strongest climber, used his analytical skills to solve problems and remind the rest of the team that the rescue was within their capability.
Bob Irvine, the de facto “safety warden,” who had climbed the Tetons since his teens, used precision and attention to detail to keep the team on track. A decade older than the rest of the rescuers, Leigh Ortenburger became a father figure and the group guru, who would later write the seminal guide book, A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range. Pete Sinclair, the experienced chief of mountain rescue at Grand Teton Park, had a long mountaineering history. He wrote the 1993 book We Aspired: The Last Innocent Americans, which gives the best description of the 1967 North Face rescue.