Popular local climber rescued from Grand

By on June 17, 2013

Jim Williams

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Climbing rangers at Grand Teton NP responded this morning to a report of an injured climber who fell near Black Rock Chimney on the Grand Teton sometime around 11 a.m. Jim Williams, 57, a local climbing guide, was leading a client when the snow he was standing on gave way. Williams caught a crampon on the ice and sustained a leg injury.

Williams was able to get he and his client through a technical stretch between Black Rock Chimney to just above the Lower Saddle — a feat requiring multiple rappels. At 3:15 p.m., rangers caught up with Williams and determined the safest and quickest way down was via helicopter. Williams was aerially evacuated to Lupine Meadows by 4:14 p.m. using a ship borrowed from Yellowstone National Park. Neither of the two Teton Interagency helicopters were available. One is on loan to Utah on fire assignment; the other is not yet under contract. Williams drove himself to the hospital.

Williams established EXPLORADUS and Professional Mountain Guides in Jackson in 1985. Williams has led major expeditions to Chile, Peru, Africa, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Tibet. He summited Mt. Everest in 2000 as a guide, following that up with climbs of all ‘Seven Summits’ — the highest peaks on each of the world’s seven continents. He is the first climber to climb all ‘seven summits’ within a year.

About Jake Nichols

Jake is a work in progress.


  1. Lost

    June 17, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    Exactly where is the Black Rock Chimney on the Grand Teton? Anyone?

  2. chuck

    June 17, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    The Black Rock Chimney is between the 2nd and 3rd ledge on the GT’s North Face. It starts at the upper west end of the 2nd ledge. It can be accessed from the Owen-Spalding route’s exposed areas if you continue north past the Double Chimney toward the Great West Chimney and beyond. It’s difficult to get through this area with snow and ice and a client and a bad leg. The exposure is vast. Cell Phone Coverage is possible at the Enclosure near the Upper Saddle with some phones and you can catch a tower just above the Lower Saddle. I assume he scrambled down from the Upper Saddle to make a call. The conditions between the Upper and Lower Saddle are fairly good in the afternoon and it would be better to be rescued from the LS – a good LZ for the bird.

  3. Jim Williams

    June 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Great to read this article based entirely on info gleamed from the internet… I am Jim Williams and no one ever spoke to me about this incident for the article. Please let me make a few adjustments to the facts stated in the article, which by the way is very accurate.

    1) I am 58.
    2) I was not the first to climb the Seven Summits in one year but I was the first to guide to guide the Seven Summits in less than a year in 2000 – 2001.
    3) The Black Rock chimneys referred to in the article are a variation on the way to the Upper Saddle. It is not on the North Face of the Grand Teton as suggested by “Chuck”. It is on the west side below the Enclosure. The chimneys are snow free at this time compared with the regular route to Upper Saddle.

    Hope this clarifies some issues.

  4. Chuck

    June 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Thanks Jim.

    Glad to see you made it out OK.

    I take it you are referring to the black-colored rock off the Central Rib’s ridge?

    The ‘Black Rock Chimney’ is on the North Face. Going down the rib is a ‘regular’ route as is the upper rib to the west by the Idaho Express.

    “a feat requiring multiple rappels” and “a technical stretch” are COMPLETELY INCORRECT and led me to think you were actually on the North Face’s ‘Black Rock Chimney’, and not on the easy stretch of the Central Rib. The Central Rib is a scramble requiring no raps and no technical climbing ability. It was mostly snow free on Sunday as you can see from these photos with an Exum Guide, David, leading 2 clients:


    and this one:


    Not sure where they got their information – Park Service? – but is was very misleading.

    Thanks for the correction.

  5. Mike

    June 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Every news outlet had the same copy about the accident. The Weekly just passed along the GTNP news release without attribution, of course. The other stuff probably came from the web and without attribution, of course.

    Here’s the news release from the NPS:


    The NPS said you were 57, not the Weekly.

    The NPS said “This effort involved descending across rock, ice and snow and required multiple rappels.” Jim didn’t say if he rapped or not, or where exactly he was.

    As with the ‘Chockstone Chimney’, some feature names appear in more than one place on the Grand. There’s a ‘Black Rock Chimney’ above the ‘Chockstone Chimney’ on the North Ridge which starts below the Second ledge.

    Then there’s the ‘Black Rock Chimney’ between the second and third ledge as referenced above and in the book ‘A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range’. This is the closest to the Owen-Spalding route and the Upper Saddle. It is simply referred to as the ‘black chimney’ in “Teton Classics: 50 Selected Climbs in the Grand Teton National Park”.

    There are many places with ‘black rock’ in their name including the ‘Black Rock Bowl’. Hard to tell where Jim actually was from reading Jim’s comments or the news release. He was between the Lower and Upper saddle and that’s probably what the press release should have said.

    Not sure how easy it is to get news from Exum, if Jim was guiding with Exum, the Park Service, or Jim, but the Weekly should have tried if it didn’t.

  6. Jim Williams

    June 21, 2013 at 7:06 am

    Ok guys this is not a big deal. There are more important things at hand.

    Let me try once again to clear things up.

    The source for either article is unclear and basically correct.

    In local jargon often used between guides and rangers a reference to the “Black rock chimney” on the descent from the summit of the Grand refers to the area on the climbers right of the other local jargon “idaho express” . Both the responding rangers and I knew where I was and that is what matters. Regardless, you are correct, the area was mostly snow free as the pictures show. I found it easier to rappel in areas that did have snow so the reference to “multiple rappels” is correct.

    Although I was not the source of any misleading info used in the article, I do feel that the description was accurate based upon the dialog between myself and the Park Rescue folks. They were great to work with and we were able to communicate easily and effectively.

    Thank you Chuck “for keeping us honest” and accurate,.thanks to the Planet for the article and thanks to all for your support. I will heal and this is over and all are alive and safely home.

    Please put this to rest and move on. Reflect in silence as to how fortunate we are to have these great mountains in our backyard. I am one of the fortunate ones.

    Thanks for the dialog. Enjoy summer.


    June 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm


    Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call for help from a location on Mount Owen (elevation 12,928 feet) just before 2:30 p.m. for an injured climber. Jeff Judkins, 38, of Lander, Wyoming and his climbing partner were on an ascent of the Crescent Arête (elevation 11,200 feet) when a door-sized rock broke free as Judkins was pushing himself onto it. Judkins fell about 15 feet before impacting a sloping ledge below. He continued to fall roughly five additional feet before his climbing protection caught him. Luckily, neither Judkins nor his partner was stuck by the rock as it fell.

    Two park rangers were inserted via short-haul to a nearby ledge just before 5 p.m. and they prepared the two climbers for short-haul extrication from the accident site to Lupine Meadows. This rescue was completed at 5:15 p.m. The Crescent Arête is adjacent to the Northeast Snowfields route on Mount Owen, and is an uncommon climb due to its technical nature. It is rated a 5.7 on the Yosemite Decimal System. Fred Beckey and Yvon Chouinard made the first ascent of this climb in September of 1959.

    Moments after completing the first mountain rescue, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received another call for help after a climber fell into a moat in the North Fork of Garnet Canyon. Gary Miller, 55, from Colorado Springs, Colorado was descending from the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton, after a successful summit of the peak earlier in the day, when he slipped on snow and slid into an icy water moat near a rock band. Miller was on a guided climb by one of the park’s authorized concessioners. Climbing guides successfully extricated Miller from the moat before rangers arrived at the site.

    Six rangers were flown to a temporary landing zone near the moat location in Garnet Canyon. Rescuers raised Miller to a site where he could be flown in a rescue litter via short-haul to Lupine Meadows by a Teton Interagency contract helicopter. A ranger attended Miller below the helicopter on the flight to the park’s rescue cache. Once at the rescue cache, they were met by a team of park medical providers led by Dr. Will Smith of St. John’s Medical Center, and an Air Idaho Life Flight ship waiting to provide transport to critical care in Idaho Falls. Miller was pronounced dead at 8:35 p.m. at the rescue cache and his body turned over to the Teton Country coroner.

  8. Rick

    June 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    “COMPLETELY INCORRECT” is more like completely misleading. I’m not sure why the JLCR aren’t hip to the multiple names and the chance for a misunderstanding. The BRC is a published name for a feature on the north ridge. It’s not a published name for a feature between the saddles. The news release was poorly written. The reason accurate information is important to climbers is so they can be on the lookout for natural threats in the same area and learn from the mistakes of others or, in this case, dangerous areas. As with the new death below the Lower Saddle, details may help prevent a new tragedy.

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