News: Missing Grand Teton National Park Skiers Likely Dead

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4/25/2011 Update, Both skier's bodies have been found. Details below from The Jackson Hole News & Guide:

Grand Teton National Park rangers dug the bodies of two skiers from 13 feet of snowslide debris Sunday, a day after detecting transmissions from avalanche beacons and six days after the men were reported missing.

Officials confirmed the deaths of Walker Pannell Kuhl, 27, of Salt Lake City and Gregory Seftick, 31, of Columbia Falls, Mont.

Rangers dug the two from the snow at around noon Sunday and ferried the bodies by helicopter from the burial site at about 9,000 feet in Garnet Canyon, park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.

In the waning hours of daylight Saturday, as the last of 35 searchers was being airlifted from the scene for the day, seasonal Jenny Lake climbing ranger Nick Armitage detected the beacon transmission, Skaggs said. Only about eight searchers were in the canyon when Armitage made a sweep of the search area with his receiver at 7 p.m. and picked up a “beep” on its fringe.

“Nick just used his Tracker II transceiver one more time — he didn’t want to give up,” Skaggs said. “He wanted to do one more sweep.”

Armitage picked up one signal then another on the east side of the avalanche debris field, a place that had been combed before. When he heard the beeps, other rangers helped him pinpoint a more certain location.

They probed and dug, reaching about 5 feet down before getting another clue, Skaggs said. Rangers believed they struck an object under the snow with a 10-foot probe pole.

Confirmation would have to wait for Sunday, however, because of fading light and regulations that limited the helicopter pilot’s flying hours. Nicole Ludwig of Hillsboro Aviation was working under contract with Teton County Search and Rescue.

From The Jackson Hole News & Guide:

A Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman said Thursday officials are assuming two skiers missing in Teton avalanche country since Monday are dead.

The grim assessment came after another frustrating day when weather kept rangers and other searchers from venturing into Garnet Canyon where the pair were headed. Walker Pannell Kuhl, 27, of Salt Lake City, and Gregory Seftick, 31, of Columbia Falls, Mont., haven’t been seen since Saturday, the day they set off toward the 13,770-foot Grand Teton.

“At this point we are assuming we don’t have survivors,” park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said. As late as Wednesday, the first day crews were able to venture to the top of Garnet Canyon and probe potential bivouac nooks, searchers held out hope.

Reality set in Wednesday night when family members of the missing men and one girlfriend viewed photographs of the search area and were briefed on the ongoing mission.

“It was an emotional night last night” Skaggs said Thursday. “They basically were coming to that conclusion — this was a potentially fatal situation for their sons.”

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