It was June 4, 2011 and snow still reached from the mountaintop to near the valley floor. Jackson resident Jesse Stover and friends ascended the 12,325-foot Teewinot, planning to ski the mountain when Stover took a misstep and, as he describes it in a new podcast, went down.
He felt his leg break and his shoulder dislocate as he slid and completed about 10 full laid out flips. He caught himself about 50 to 100 feet from a cliff, holding himself on the crampon attached to his broken leg.
Stover recounts the story along with Teton County Search and Rescue’s medical advisor AJ Wheeler and Jenny Lake Climbing Ranger Phil Edmonds on “The Fine Line,” a podcast meant to remind people about the risks and repercussions of mountain adventure.
The podcast launched in July and will feature a new episode each month, said Stephanie Thomas, executive director of the Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation. Each episode will look at a rescue from different perspectives, including the volunteers who respond. It will look at the decisions of the day and the moment everything changed.
“It’s about coming up to that edge and crossing that edge,” Thomas said. “There will definitely be an edge in each of these stories. That’s why it’s called ‘The Fine Line.’ We walk it all the time. How do you walk that line between adventure and fun and risk and potentially life-changing accidents or death?”
Part of Teton County Search and Rescue’s mission is saving lives through community education. Thomas said she wanted to make sure the community was hearing from established and seasoned athletes about times they turned around, made mistakes, or when things didn’t go as planned. It’s not all beautiful pictures shared on social media, she said.
“There are moments in their lives when they’ve had to stop and think and in some cases survive,” Thomas said.
In the first episode, “A Single Step,” Stover describes his own blood on the snow and how he thought, “You’ve got to get that helicopter here, because I’m dying,” as he waited for rescue.
Wheeler explains the urgency in needing to reach Stover to save not just his life, but also his leg, which other climbers secured in a tourniquet after they reached him. A doctor also explains the choices made to save Stover’s life.
Edmonds details the challenge of getting a helicopter to Stover on the steep terrain, and how the warming snow created an avalanche down the gully where Stover sat. Rescuers had about a minute to move him and themselves from harm’s way.
“There is never a time to not be vigilant in the mountains,” Stover says during the story.
It’s one thing to read about the event or this lesson he learned. It’s another to hear Stover describe it in his own voice, said Amy Golightly, associate director of the Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation.
“We don’t want to just stand up here on our little soapbox and preach to people what they should and shouldn’t do,” she said. “It’s a lot more personal hearing from a person’s own experience. That engages people and it will stay with them longer.”
The podcasts will likely feature a single incident each episode. Coming in August will be one about a river rescue, Golightly said. Other stories will deal with bear encounters and avalanches. They might also tell some historic rescue stories as well, she said.
So far the first podcast has about 500 listens, Golightly said. It is currently available on Soundcloud and they hope to eventually make it available on iTunes.
Listen to episode 1 of “The Fine Line”: