Search and rescue volunteers from Park and Big Horn counties rescued a fallen ice climber Saturday from an ice waterfall up the South Fork.
The 42-year-old Billings ice climber was on the Broken Heart ice waterfall when he fell some 30 feet from the top of the third pitch. Richard James Dvorak was climbing with a party of 10 when the accident happened, according to an SAR release.
The Broken Heart ice waterfall is 38 miles up the South Fork, less than a mile north of the South Fork Highway.
The initial call came into the Park County Sheriff’s 911 Communications Center at 11:35 a.m. Park County SAR was immediately mobilized and deployed two ground teams to the ice waterfall with its Argo tracked snow vehicle.
Rescuers were assisted by two members of the Cody Regional Wilderness Medical Team as well as five volunteers from the Big Horn County SAR Unit who were summoned for additional manpower. However, the Argo was only able to traverse the rough terrain halfway from the highway to the ice waterfall. Rescuers had to hike in from there.
At roughly 2:30 p.m. a PCSAR volunteer and wilderness team member were able to ascend the ice to reach Dvorak. He was complaining of pelvic pain, possible broken ribs and a fractured left femur. After his injuries were stabilized, rescue personnel prepared him for the descent by rope down two ice waterfall pitches.
He was carried down the mountain to the Argo and then transported the rest of the way out to a waiting ambulance. At 8 p.m., he was transported to West Park Hospital where his condition was not available as of press time.
During the rescue, SAR personnel were also assisted by several recreational ice climbers in the area.
New SAR coordinator Bill Brown participated in the operation on scene and commended the excellent cooperation by everyone that resulted in a successful evacuation.
“I can’t say enough about the response by the wilderness medical team, our neighbors to the east in Big Horn County, and all of the ice climbers in the area who came to assist,” he said. “When the need was there, everyone stepped up.”
Brown also credited last year’s five-day technical mountain rescue course that emphasized new techniques using modern, lightweight rope rescue gear. Big Horn County SAR was also a part of that class.
“It’s training such as this that enhances inter-agency cooperation and better prepares our volunteers for high angle evacuations,” he said. “Our new gear performed flawlessly.”