Thursday, December 01, 2022

Coroner says Glacier climbers fell after rock broke loose

Hungry Horse News | August 1, 2022 12:00 AM

Two mountain climbers who died in Glacier National Park earlier this week fell nearly 1,000 feet after the rock they were climbing on broke loose, officials investigating the accident report.

Glacier County coroner Cpl. Jason Sullivan confirmed that Brian Kennedy of Columbia Falls and Jack Beard of Kalispell were roped together when the accident occurred on Dusty Star Mountain in the St. Mary Lake area of the park. Both men were 67 years old.

Both men were wearing helmets. They fell an estimated 800 to 900 feet off the sheer east face of the mountain above a snowfield. Their bodies were found on a rock ledge well above the snowfield.

Based on photos, it appeared the rock the men were anchored to gave way, Sullivan said.

The men were reported missing after they failed to return from the trip they started July 21.

The approach to Dusty Star from the east requires a difficult bushwhack above Virginia Falls just to get to the base of the mountain.

Kennedy was the longtime editor, publisher and owner of the Hungry Horse News from 1978 to early 1999. He was an award-winning journalist during his tenure with the Hungry Horse News.

Beard owned Beard Cabinets in Kalispell.

Kennedy and Beard were expert climbers and have been summitting mountain peaks in Glacier National Park for decades. Both men contributed greatly to the Glacier Mountaineering Society and were well-known in the Flathead Valley community.

They had done multiple, and often technical, climbs together according to the Society and stories told in "Going-to-the-Sun," the climbing journal of the Society.

The men were reported missing on July 24.

An air search began on July 24 in the Dusty Star Mountain area on the east side route of approach. Two Bear Air flew on July 24 in daylight and darkness. Minuteman Aviation took over the air search with Park Service spotters on board on the morning of July 25 and located the bodies of the climbers. The bodies were recovered on the same day by Two Bear Air.

Sullivan estimated they perished four days before they were found.

Glacier National Park is also investigating the accident as well, though it could be weeks before a report is completed, park officials note.

Two fellow climbers were heading to the site where the bodies were recovered Friday (July 29) to pick up Beard and Kennedy’s packs and gear, which were left behind when their bodies were recovered.

The gear could provide more clues in the accident as to whether they had reached the summit or were still ascending when the accident occurred.

A memorial service for Beard will be held Wednesday, Aug. 3, at 4 p.m. at Herron Park in Kalispell.

A memorial for Kennedy will be at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29 at the Glacier Outdoor Center Parkview Pavilion in West Glacier.

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