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Benicia Climber Falls To His Death In Grand Teton National Park

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (CBS SF) - A Benicia man fell to his death Sunday while descending from a climb up the Middle Teton in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, according to the National Park Service.

The climber was identified as 27-year-old Justin Harold Beldin.

Beldin and two climbing partners had reached the summit of the 12,804-foot peak and were beginning their descent around noon when Beldin fell, park service officials said.

Another group of climbers near the summit saw Beldin disappear from sight on the Northwest Couloir side of the ridge.

The climbers alerted Beldin's companions, who were descending via the Southwest Couloir and were unaware that Beldin had fallen, according to the National Park Service.

One of the climbers who saw Beldin fall called the Jenny Lake Ranger Station on a cellphone at 12:09 p.m. Rangers summoned a Teton Interagency helicopter to pinpiont Beldin's location on the Middle Teton, and the helicopter crew determined that Beldin had likely died in the 1,000-foot fall, park service officials said.

A thunderstorm thwarted initial attempts to reach Beldin, but an off-duty ranger at the Lower Saddle hiked to a high point where he could see Beldin. Weather conditions and the nature of the terrain prevented the ranger from accessing the area, the National Park Service said.

Heavy fog on Monday delayed an aerial recovery until 10:30 a.m., when four rangers landed at the Lower Saddle and climbed to where Beldin's body had landed.

The body was turned over to the Teton County coroner at 2 p.m. Monday. It was determined that Beldin was carrying an ice axe on the climb but was not wearing a helmet, according to park officials.

Beldin had been living in Victor, Idaho, since April and was working in Jackson, Wyo., NPS officials said.

He had teamed up with his climbing partners recently. He had been acquainted with one of them since April, but he had only met the other climber on Sunday morning, according to the National Park Service.

Beldin was the fourth person to die in the Teton Range this year. Two backcountry skiers died in an avalanche on Ranger Peak on March 7, and a climber fell to his death on Teewinot Mountain on July 12.

The Middle Teton is one of the most popular climbs in the Teton Range, park service officials said.



(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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