Three men died while climbing mountains in Montana’s Glacier National Park in recent days.
On July 25, rescuers recovered the bodies of mountaineers Brian Kennedy and Jack Beard, who had set off together on July 21 to climb Dusty Star Mountain.
Kennedy and Beard, who were both 67 and lived in Montana, were experienced climbers who had been hiking Glacier’s towering peaks for decades. They visited the 1,583-square-mile park in northwest Montana so often that some staffers even knew them personally, per a statement from the National Park Service.
Family members reported the men missing on July 24, after they did not return home as planned, and park rangers found their vehicle at the trailhead.
Kennedy and Beard were well-known within the local Flathead Valley community and had been long-time members of the Glacier Mountaineering Society. The group’s president, Greg Notess, says that they were exploring a new route on Dusty Star, per the Missoulian’s Griffen Smith.
“The loss of Brian and Jack is a reality check,” Larry Hiller, former president of the mountaineering club, tells the Missoulian. “Accidents are not infrequent in mountaineering. They go with the terrain … Regardless, we’ll continue to climb in spite of the hazards, keeping the spirit exemplified by Brian and Jack alive.”
Also on July 25, a 79-year-old man from Florida fell to his death while climbing a steep, off-trail slope on Rising Wolf Mountain with a group of friends, according to a statement from park officials. The friends called for help and dialed 911, which alerted the park of the emergency.
Though park officials said the two incidents are unrelated and likely just a coincidence, they’re a stark reminder of the risks of climbing in Glacier, which is home to brittle sedimentary rock formations that can easily crumble, says Gina Kerzman, a Glacier National Park spokesperson, to the Missoulian.
“There's just a lot of people out in the park enjoying the nice weather,” Kerzman says.
The July incidents bring Glacier’s death count to four so far in 2022, reports the Whitefish Pilot’s Whitney England. In June, 19-year-old Winslow Nichols fell to his death while climbing Mount Brown inside the park.
Between 2014 and 2016, 990 people died inside national parks across the country, which equates to roughly six deaths per week, according to the National Park Service’s website.
As Adam Roy wrote for Backpacker earlier this year, “Part of the beauty of national parks is that they’re wild spaces. The guardrails, liability issues, and for-your-own-good-protections of everyday modern life are mostly absent.”
Still, he added, “the flip side to that freedom is that accidents do occasionally happen.”