Rescuer Profiles

Pete Sinclair
Sinclair, a skilled, experienced chief of mountain rescue at Grand Teton National Park in the 1960's, had a long mountaineering history, including the first ascent of the West Rib of Denali in 1959. Quiet, and with a philosophical manner, Pete was not easily ruffled. His democratic leadership confirmed the wisdom that allowed his mates to do what each did best during the rescue. Sinclair went on to earn a Ph.D. in English literature, and started his teaching career at the University of Wyoming . A few years later, at the beckoning of Willy Unsoeld, he joined the faculty at Evergreen State College in Olympia , Washington where he remained for three decades until retirement. A lover of stories, he has written widely, including the 1993 book, We Aspired: The Last Innocent Americans. The book was short listed in 1994 for the prestigious Boardman-Tasker Prize at the International Festival of Mountaineering Literature in London. Chapter 10 of We Aspired, entitled "At the Height," remains today the best description of the 1967 north face rescue.
Leigh Ortenburger
Ortenburger in his late 30's was 10 years older than the rest of the rescuers. A solid man whose strength in mountaineering earned him a national reputation, as did pioneering climbs in the Andes and prize-winning photography. If the rescue had a father figure it was Ortenburger. His years of researching first ascents for his guide book, A Climber's Guide to the Teton Range, made him a guru - a man who knew the Tetons beyond all others. When things got tough, the climbers turned to Leigh. Tragically, Ortenburger died in the Oakland, CA fires of 1991. He lives on through his spectacular photography and unparalleled contributions in mountaineering.
Bob Irvine
Slender, precise, and serious, Irvine knew the Tetons well, having climbed in the range since his teens. Irvine loves numbers and mathematics and one of his major contributions to the rescue was his role as de facto "safety warden," where his precision and attention to detail kept the team exactly on tract. This leadership led Irvine to succeed Sinclair after Sinclair left the Tetons at the end of the 1967 season. Irvine remained as leader of the Grand Teton National Park for the next twenty-eight years. He went on to have a distinguished career as professor of mathematics at Weber State University.
Rick Reese
Reese was known as the team's strongest climber. It was not only his ability to move quickly over mountain terrain that distinguished him, but also his unflappability when things got serious. When bolts had to be placed in the midst of falling rock and ice, Reese did the job quickly. And while the team seemed humbled at times by the danger, Reese approached it as just another mountain adventure. His analytical skills were continually employed to solve problems and his cheerfulness reminded the team that the rescue was well within their capabilities. Reese was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and doctoral candidate at the Korbel School of International Studies, taught college in Montana, was the principal founder and first president of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, served as director of the Yellowstone Institute, chaired the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee for twenty years, and retired as director of Community relations at the University of Utah. He has devoted his life to conservation and higher education.
Mike Ermarth
Mike Ermarth was the "hunk" of the group with strong features, sandy blond hair and a tall, strong build. Like Reese, Ermarth often took on difficult and strength demanding tasks. Stepping forward when exploration of the face below was necessary, he gained respect for his unyielding courage. Thoughtful and smart, Ermarth was also the intellectual of the rescue team. At the time, he was working on his PhD. in history at the University of Chicago and would go on to become a distinguished professor of German history at Darmouth College. His serious intellect was continually interrupted by playful quips of humor. Ermarth saw the ironic nature of small things during the rescue and converted his thoughts to humor that broke the tension. A superb climber, Ermarth moved over the rock, ice, and snow on the face easily. This quality formed quiet leadership that raised confidence in the others. Ermarth is now professor of modern German history at Dartmouth College.
Ralph Tingey
Considered the purist rock climber of the team, Tingey was deeply admired by his mates. Sinclair's choice of Tingey to lead the backup team, a team that ferried heavy loads up the mountain without a rope for safety, was brilliant. His climbing reputation and easy nature allowed the backup group to maximize their work. It was Tingey who cracked the morning dawn with careful telescope work from the Grand Teton road to determine there was a party stranded on the face. This allowed the team to skip the normal ground reconnaissance and get to the face quicker. During the dangerous work of the face, Tingey held a cheerful nature that encouraged the others. At the time, Tingey was a PhD. candidate in Arab languages at Johns Hopkins University. After the rescue, Tingey became a permanent park ranger in Grand Teton and later assistant park superintendent at Denali National Park, superintendent at Lake Clark National Park in Alaska, and superintendent of Grand Teton National Park.
Ted Wilson
At the time of the rescue, Wilson had just returned from a strong record of climbing in the Alps with world-renowned climber John Harlin who, a few years later, died from a fall off of the Eiger. Climbers tend to be rather quiet and philosophical. Wilson was none of that, his gregarious nature led him to become a politician -- mayor of Salt Lake City -- a move that surprised many of his climbing friends. On the face, Wilson's connection with the victim, Gaylord Campbell, was quickly established because Campbell, too, had done extensive Alpine climbing. Wilson served as Campbell's "nurse," and stayed up most of the night talking with Campbell to distract the victim from his pain. Wilson, in addition to becoming a mayor, directed the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, directed the Utah River's Council and served as Utah Governor Gary Herbert's chief environmental advisor. He is currently the director of governmental relations for Talisker, which owns and operates ski resorts.