Remembering two climbers who died in Glacier National Park

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A couple of 67-year-old mountaineers, Brian Kennedy and Jack Beard died in a rock climbing accident July 22 in Glacier National Park. The pair fell somewhere between 600 and 1,000 feet on their way down from Dusty Star (8,573 feet), shortly after completing what is likely the first ascent of the formation’s named prominence, Point 8084.

Both Kennedy and Beard were extremely experienced and longtime members of the Glacier Mountaineering Society (GMS). Kennedy, known in the community as a goal-oriented Peakbagger, had summited 230 of Glacier’s 234 named peaks at the time of his death. He and Beard, a longtime friend and frequent partner, were local legends, known for their high profile presence in GMS.

The couple packed up to attempt this new route on Dusty Star on July 21, bivouac near the base of the route, then attempted their attempt on July 22. When they failed to return in time, National Park Service search and rescue teams Two Bear Air and Minuteman Aviation were dispatched. The bodies of the two men were located on July 25 about 7,100 feet on the ramparts of Dusty Star. The two men were heavily tangled in a rope following a long fall, so much so that the recovery team had to extricate the bodies in several places to extract them by helicopter. Given the remote and rugged nature of the crash site, no further investigation was carried out by the recovery team, and it was initially unclear whether the pair achieved their intended purpose or perished in the process. road course. All of Beard and Kennedy’s climbing gear and other gear were left behind.

In the days and weeks following the accident, several local climbers and friends ventured to the remote walls of Dusty Star in an attempt to find out what had happened. Two of them, Adam Clark and Ted Steiner, managed to reach the place on the wall where the bodies were found. They continued up the road, finding more material strewn about 400 to 500 feet up the wall. Items they found included Kennedy’s backpack and camera, which miraculously were still in working order. The camera showed photos of the couple at the top, proving they had indeed reached the summit of point 8084.

Brian Kennedy, Al Hofmeister and Jack Beard on The Great Gendarme in Montana in August 2019. (Photo: Courtesy of Brian Kennedy)

At the crash site, Clark found various pieces of an anchor, including a blue strap hanging from a piton and a piece of green cord attached to a cam. Kennedy and Beard were found wearing intact harnesses with their belay devices attached to their belay loops, and Beard was properly attached to the rope. Although he noted that it was impossible to know exactly what happened, based on the evidence Clark and other climbers determined that the couple’s anchor had slipped while they were rappelling. , Beard actively recalling and Kennedy waiting at anchor above.

Dusty Star’s rock, like many Glacier peaks, is sedimentary and often rotted, “so it’s pretty hard to tell if the rock blew up or if the anchor itself was pulled,” Clark said. Escalation. From the highest point where he found pieces of Beard and Kennedy’s gear, it was about 500 feet further up to point 8084. alpine face.

The accident was particularly tragic, Clark said, because the two were highly respected and loved in the Glacier mountaineering community for decades, and both were known for their careful and safety-conscious approach to summits. rugged and technical Glacier. “That’s what made this accident so different in my mind,” he said. “It wasn’t about visiting climbers who weren’t used to the nuances of technical climbing in Glacier. They knew how to dig for anchor points, how to slow down, what to look for.

Clark, who once tried to reach Point 8084 by a different route but turned back after encountering rotten rock, said the two men also inspired him, in a larger sense. “They were guys who loved [climbing]. They loved going out, picking on each other, and have done it all their lives.

Clark remembers meeting Kennedy in high school, mentored by the older mountaineer on his first trip to the Glacier Mountaineering Society. “I remember him as this extremely nice guy, really passionate about climbing mountains,” Clark said. “He had a wealth of knowledge. We got back from the trip after 2am, and I’m this 15-year-old kid…my parents sent me with this group of older climbers they didn’t know,” Clark said with a laugh. “My mom was calling Brian’s house, all worried, you know. But first thing the next morning, he called my parents, apologizing for driving me home late. It’s just this very nice gesture on his part that I appreciated, and my parents too.

Lucy Beard, one of Beard’s two daughters, said Escalation that “both men were humble and silent pillars of their community” and that “my father was the most awkward, kindest and most generous person I know. He had a special affinity for helping young people find their way in life… He took many children (and children at heart) for their first climb, their first Glacier summit or their first ski route. He enjoyed watching people discover a passion for the outdoors and was always proud if they embarked on greater adventures.

“Jack was one of the first people I met when I moved to Montana,” said Sara Boilen, another GMS member. say it flathead beacon. “We were going to climb Kila, and here was this really quirky, funny guy who had amazing style. He was so humble and yet it was so obvious that he had so much to teach. I don’t know how you balance that. After getting involved with GMS, I took this amazing trip to climb Mt Cleveland with Brian and Jack and a few other legends. It was unreal. It was Jack’s birthday and he and all his climbing buddies let me come… There were no sermons, and not even an overt effort to educate me, like, “Hey, Sara, let me show you how to hold your ice axe. ‘ But you just knew you had to watch them.

Kennedy’s partner of 13 years, Denise Davies, painted a portrait of a soft-spoken, resilient and dependable man, both on and off the wall. She and Kennedy met through GMS in the early 1990s and have climbed more than 100 peaks together, including 42 at Glacier.

On one of the couple’s first dates, while climbing the B-7 pillar (8,712 feet), Davies recalled how “we were roped up on that ledge and my fingers were turning white from the lack of circulation. Brian just reached out and started warming my hands, I thought, ‘Wow… Uh, what’s going on?’ well that was 13 years ago, and then we were together. The couple were also passionate about skiing and traveled extensively, from Peru to Cuba to Iceland. They were planning a trip to the Dolomites, Italy when he died.

Kennedy, journalist and photographer for most of his life, edited the annual GMS Newspaper on the side for 14 years, in addition to owning, editing and publishing the News from Hungry Horse For more than 20 years. Despite her extensive climbing resume, experience and lofty goals, throughout her life Kennedy was always humble about her climbing, Davies said, both with others and with herself. “He was pretty intolerant of know-it-alls,” she laughed. “One of his pet peeves was people who had just moved from somewhere, and the next thing you know they were a Glacier or northwest Montana expert.” She remarked that one of Kennedy’s favorite quotes was from Mark Twain: “Never miss an opportunity to shut up.”

Kennedy had several regular climbing partners over the years, Davies said, but perhaps none as close as Beard, who was also close friends with Davies. “There are so many people calling Jack a goofball,” she said, “But he was just very light-hearted and sweet-witted, with this beautifully subtle, witty sense of humor.” While Kennedy was more driven by mountaineering goals and Beard more sports and ice climbing, the pair were seamless on the wall no matter the mission and have been for decades.

“In Brian’s eyes, Jack was one of the few people who really couldn’t hurt,” Davies said. “There was complete respect and trust there, on a level you only find in the best climbing partnerships.”

Karen Sahn (1969-2022), lifelong climber and guide, memorialized in Aspen

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