Hitoshi Onoe, a Japanese on vacation in Teton County, was found dead Saturday by rangers in Grand Teton National Park at the foot of the Black Chimney Road on Teewinot Mountain.
Onoe was probably off-road, according to the map he had of the east face, but park spokesman CJ Adams was unwilling to speculate on his loss.
The 42-year-old IT professional worked in San Jose, Calif., And the Japanese consulate informed his family in Japan of the news, according to a press release from the park.
The cause of his death has not yet been determined, according to Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue, who provided News & Guide with details of Onoe after his family was informed. Blue said Onoe stayed at an Airbnb in town.
The National Park Service is investigating the crash, which Adams said likely happened on Friday. Climbing rangers responded on Saturday after another climber ascending Teewinot reported finding a body at the base of the black chimney. Rangers were notified around noon on Saturday and recovered the remains with a helicopter.
Teewinot has had a number of deaths over the years, most recently in May 2018, when a nurse in Jackson appeared to have slipped and fell on a high-angle snowfield.
The route up the east face, a 5,600-foot fourth-class ascent that many people attempt without ropes because of its classification, is notoriously difficult.
“It’s very underrated,” said Jim Woodmencey, Mountain Weather meteorologist who also worked as a Jenny Lake rock-climbing ranger for 14 summers. “It’s really easy to get off the road there. There are so many ledges and goat paths of people zigzagging on the east face.
The black chimney is a variation of the east face and rated 5.6 on the Yosemite decimal system – more difficult than the standard east face climb. Onoe did not have climbing shoes, harnesses, helmets or other climbing gear with him, Adams said.
Two Jackson women died in August 2015 in the area after pulling off the road and falling from a ledge.
Leigh Ortenburger and Reynold Jackson’s book “A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range” warns that “careful route finding is essential” on the east face.
Ortenburger and Jackson say there is a “steep rotten section” in the Black Chimney variant that “often contains black ice”.
“At best, the black chimney is a dangerous place because of the rotten rock,” they wrote.
Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr said Teewinot’s climb is much more difficult than it looks.
“It’s so easy to underestimate him,” he said. “You will read the guides and they will say this is fourth class rock climbing and yes if you are on the right track it is but it is almost impossible to stay on the right track and it This is where people underestimate her and get into the big time problem.