Former Salt Lake City mayor's rescue story moves to big screen

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Jenny Wilson has taken the tradition of passing on family stories to a whole new level.

As a child, Wilson — a former Salt Lake County Council member — listened carefully to the stories she heard from her father and his friends. One seemed to come up more often than the others, but it wasn't until she saw part of the story on display at a visitors center in Grand Teton National Park that Wilson realized the rest of the world might want to hear it.

"I grew up loving these men. Not just because of their mountaineering, but because of how they lived their lives," said Wilson of the characters of the soon-to-be-premiered "The Grand Rescue." "A lot of people hear about this project and think it is about my father, but it isn't just about my dad, who I love dearly, but about all seven of the rescuers who I found to be so inspirational."

Dad, in this case, is former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson. And, as it turns out, four of the seven men involved in the epic 1967 rescue of two climbers — one of them with shattered bones sticking out of his leg — from the north face of the Grand Teton were Salt Lake City natives.

"Reliving this has had us all doing a total re-examination of what we did and how we did it," said Ted Wilson, who was a ranger at Grand Teton National Park that summer and preparing for a second year of teaching economics at Skyline High School in 1967. "It has been immensely gratifying, fun and reinvigorating for all of us. It was a magnificent experience then and it has been again."

Jenny Wilson said the production has taken a little longer than she had anticipated, but the extra time was worth the wait.

"It is kind of tricky only being able to shoot in the summer, and we ended up doing an additional shoot where the incident occurred," she said. "It was pretty intense. You have to protect the team and the cameras."

Another challenge was finding gear and clothing to match the late 1960s.

"Ralph Tingey had a few things and my dad had a few things from then and we found two really committed mountaineering clubs in Colorado that helped," Jenny Wilson said. "We also ordered some things online."

When The Tribune did a story on the production of "The Grand Rescue" in 2009, efforts to reach Gaylord Campbell, the man rescued from the mountain, had been unsuccessful. Since then, Campbell granted an interview for the film. No one involved in the story had heard from Campbell since the incident.

"People find it really interesting that he was pretty ungrateful at the time and was complaining and critical of the rescue," Jenny Wilson said. "We wanted answers from him so he wasn't just a ghost. He was still critical."

Ted Wilson spent a lot of time with Campbell on the mountain during the rescue and was surprised to hear that the climber decided to criticize the team's efforts once he was in the hospital.

"Rick Reese and Pete Sinclair did an incredible job cleaning his wounds. They probably saved his leg," Ted Wilson said. "We made a lot of extra effort to get morphine to him. It was disappointing to hear him criticizing us."

Jenny Wilson said she and her father are excited for the premiere, with plans to enter film festivals and find a distribution deal.

"This film exposes a time in our history when mountaineering was much different than it is now," Ted Wilson said. "It was much more rudimentary and we had such less viable equipment. Rescues have changed tremendously. The rescue we did could probably be done in three or four hours in current conditions."

Twitter: @BrettPrettyman —

A Grand Rescue premiere

"The Grand Rescue" premiere is Nov. 5 and is by invitation only.

Read the 2009 Salt Lake Tribune story about the 1967 rescue of two climbers from the Grand Teton in Teton National Park involving former Salt Lake City mayor Ted Wilson and three other Utah natives.