Glacier Park trail worker in stable condition after 200-foot fall

2012-07-07T07:25:00Z 2012-07-07T07:25:11Z Glacier Park trail worker in stable condition after 200-foot fallBy TRISTAN SCOTT of the Missoulian missoulian.com
July 07, 2012 7:25 am  • 

KALISPELL – A Glacier National Park employee who was seriously injured in a fall earlier this week is in stable condition at Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit and is making “remarkable improvements in her recovery,” park and hospital officials said Friday.

Morgan Bell, 31, is a veteran member of the trail crew and was on a five-member team working to clear sections of the popular Highline Trail, a scenic and exposed trail in Glacier Park’s high country that has not yet opened this year due to snow hazards.

The fall occurred Tuesday afternoon as the woman was returning to the trailhead at Logan Pass. The crew had been preparing the snow-covered trail for public access – clearing debris, digging drains and performing other general trail work – when Bell slipped on a snowbank and slid approximately 200 feet, Glacier Park spokeswoman Denise Germann said.

Unable to stop herself during the slide, the woman reached the end of the snowfield and fell about 12 feet to the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Three Rivers Ambulance and ALERT air ambulance were dispatched while park rangers responded to the scene to stabilize Bell. She was flown via ALERT to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where her condition was listed as stable as of Friday evening, a hospital supervisor said.

Germann said all of the trail crew members are trained in self-arrest and using their tools to self-arrest on snow. However, she dropped her tools when she slipped.

“We believe that her experience and training allowed her to use her body, hands and boots to try to stop herself, which she was unable to do. But she was able to slow herself down, which we believe contributed to her survival.”

Bell suffered injuries consistent with a fall, Germann said.

“All the park employees and her coworkers are sending many positive thoughts and prayers her way and wishing her a full and speedy recovery,” Germann said.

The Highline Trail has been closed to the public from Logan Pass to Haystack Butte for snow hazards and it is unknown when the section of trail will be accessible to the public. Visitors headed into the park’s higher elevations are encouraged to use extreme caution and have the appropriate skills and equipment to navigate such areas, or wait until conditions improve to visit those areas.

“There is still snow at high elevations and we are hoping folks are prepared when they go into some of the higher elevations,” Germann said, urging hikers to come prepared with extra layers and the proper equipment for backcountry travel. They should also be aware of their skill level and limitations, and understand how to use the equipment, she said.

“Folks need to come prepared,” she said. “The weather that you encounter in the valley is not always what you encounter in the park.”

Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at (406) 730-1067 or at tscott@missoulian.com.

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