Glacier Park In Your Summer Plans?
Layout designed for best viewing on a "1024 x 768" screen.
Okay so you’re Joe Six-Pack and you are planning an awesome vacation to Glacier National Park in Montana. You pack Mrs. Six-pack and the little microbrews in the car and head off cross country to a place that hosted over 2 million visitors in 2007. You plan a few easy hikes to appease “the wife” and get the kids their experience in Glacier but there are mountains to climb and summits to stand on.
Here's How Your Planned Escape To Glacier Has Worked So Far:
You do the Trail of Cedars on the boardwalk, boring!
You ride the roundtrip shuttle from Apgar to St. Mary’s and have to wait in lines longer than you had to wait for Magic Mountain at Disneyland, agony!
Virginia Falls is nice, but the annoying tourists are even bothering you, help!
The microbrews are totally driving you nuts and the Mrs. is starting to morph into your Mother-in-Law.
You feel an intense need to ESCAPE!
You finally get the ELUSIVE KITCHEN PASS and today is “YOUR” day; a well deserved gift of mountains and quiet solitude! It’s an early morning alarm clock and a quick bite to eat and out the door to adventure. By all means have a safe time but be prepared. For those of you who are weekend warriors please be advised, mountains are dangerous places and when things go wrong it can happen very fast.
Off trail activities in Glacier are not dissimilar to other locations in the world in that there are trails and routes that have exposure. One of the big differences is that National Parks have a great number of “weekend warriors” who are untrained and lack the sufficient knowledge and skills to avoid common problems that other more experienced outdoor enthusiasts have learned over time.
Arrival in Glacier might kick in some dormant macho gene that lies undiscovered until passing through the entrance stations and shelling out the $25 to drive the roads.
Be careful when you visit. There are a lot more things than grizzly bears that can quickly ruin someone’s day. Some visitors perhaps just have poor timing and die because a rock falls on their head. A foreign tourist died a few years ago when a large boulder dislodged and fell on his rental car while he drove up the Going-to-the-Sun Highway. Others die while getting a photo opp on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway or fall down a waterfall.
What are the Chances of Dying in Glacier National Park?
So really, what are the chances of dying in Glacier? What about the bears? I submit to you we need to be less concerned about the bears and more cognizant of the human factor of good decision making and using our brains.
Statistically, a visitor has VERY low risk of meeting their demise while visiting Glacier National Park. For all of the publicity that Ursus arctos horribilis receives grizzly bears or bears in general rank only as 7th on the list of total numbers of deaths in Glacier. It certainly must be terrifying to be chewed on by an animal that weighs 3 to 4 times what a human does and worse yet is the possibility of becoming grizzly scat. Between 1913 and 1995 nine people lost their lives in Glacier National Park due to predation by a bear. Four of the victims were visitors the other five were park employees. This is probably because employees statistically spend more time over all on the trails than the visitors. Therefore their chances of encountering a bear are higher. For more information on Glacier Park bear safety visit Bear Safety and watch the 7.5 minute video on a Quicktime Player by Apple.
In those 82 years the greatest number of deaths in Glacier resulted by drowning. 48 souls perished in the water and this number was nearly twice the number of the second leading cause of death which is heart attacks which claimed 27 lives during the same period. Swimming and boating in Glacier’s creeks and rivers in not a great idea unless you are wearing a life preserver and have scouted the area that will be navigated. The lakes are cold and hypothermia is a real possibility even on a hot summer day.
The following table shows all deaths in Glacier National Park from 1913 until 1995.
|Rank||Cause of Death||Total Deaths||Visitors||Employees||Park Service|
|4||Fall while hiking||21||16||5||0|
|7||Killed by bear||9||4||5||0|
|12||Died from exposure||4||3||1||0|
|14||Missing/ presumed dead||4||4||0||0|
|15||Fell while riding horse||3||3||0||0|
The Back-Up Plan:
Most visitors to Glacier National Park visit with no thought about the chances of being involved in some type of accident or tragedy. Despite all of the beauty of Glacier it is still possible to be seriously injured or loose your life if something terrible happens.
The common thread behind all of these tragedies that helps many of these victims carry on for another day is our emergency response medical teams. These men and women of valor risk their own lives in Glacier’s backcountry to save others. Perhaps the most significant tool used in Glacier National Park to save lives is Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s A.L.E.R.T. helicopter and its crew. There are other flight rescue crews as well and it is not my intension to ignore them in this article.
A.L.E.R.T. turns tragedy to triumph. A “911” call activates a series of events that leads to the victim receiving care at Kalispell Regional Medical Center (KRMC) the closest hospital to Glacier National Park that offers rotor ambulance services. KRMC works with other fixed wing air ambulances to help its patients receive the most appropriate medical care. Many of the more seriously injured patients are transferred to Seattle’s Harborview Hospital for more advanced care following their stabilization at KRMC.
The emergency room staff of physicians and nurses at KRMC practices the highest level of care and rest assured that if you need help they can deliver. Many of them spend their off days traipsing around the various mountains surround the Flathead Valley. If you are trampled by a moose, get too close to a bear or fall off a mountain the A.L.E.R.T. team from KRMC will be there to pick up the pieces. They understand the delicate balance between success and failure in the mountains.
From other visitors, to the park service employees and paramedics, law enforcement professionals, search and rescue volunteers as well as the competent medical community each of these entities plays a crucial role in saving a life.
A.L.E.R.T.: Here for the Long HaulA.L.E.R.T., the nation's first rural hospital-based helicopter ambulance service, flew its first patient in September of 1975 and has established a reputation for providing one of the most advanced helicopter air ambulance services in the nation.
In the spring of 1975, a young logger sustained a critical head injury in a remote area and was transported by the only means available, a helicopter patterned after the kind used during the Korean War to transport injured service men. This style of transport did not allow for treatment during flight and unfortunately the young man died. This tragedy led a professional team at KRMC and a commercial helicopter operation to consider the possibility of developing a coordinated, hospital-based helicopter rescue system. This system would provide primary rescue (in coordination with EMS responders) at the scene, as well as provide transport of critically ill patients from referring hospitals to KRMC or from KRMC to tertiary healthcare centers.
The A.L.E.R.T. Crew no longer does short hauls. There are other air helicopter ambulances that still use the "short haul" for mountain rescues.
Imagine being the nurse who dangles on the end of a line underneath a helicopter while rescuing a climber in Glacier National Park. They have the best and most terrifying seat in the house. This technique is called a “Short-Haul” rescue. Short-Haul is considered a simpler and safer method in comparison to hoisting or rappelling from the aircraft, both of which involve a helicopter hovering overhead for longer periods.
A “Short-Haul” Rescue allows flight nurses or paramedics to respond to injured people in remote places where a helicopter could not possibly land due to treacherous terrain. Short-Haul allows rescuers to cut hours off of a protracted and complicated rescue operation. Obviously there is risk to all rescuers in these types of scenarios. That is why paramedics are active outdoor people who enjoy being in the wilds of Montana.
To briefly summarize the mission of a short-haul mission is to fly as close to the injured person and find an appropriate staging area where the helicopter lands. A long line is connected underneath the helicopter and the flight nurse or paramedic hooks on to the other line with a full body rescue harness and medical equipment. The equipment includes a spine board and special protective bag with a built-in suspension harness.
When the helicopter then lifts off, with the flight paramedic suspended on the line about 100 feet below and the pilot maneuvers and lowers the paramedic as close as possible to the injured person. Once the paramedic is safely at the patient’s side, the helicopter flies away and the patient is then rapidly treated, immobilized on a spine board and placed into a protective bag.
After initial stabilization and preparation for transport is completed the helicopter returns and lifts the injured person and the flight paramedic to the staging area where the patient is loaded onto the helicopter and transported to a medical center.
Many places in Glacier National Park are a short 15 minute ride across the mountains to KRMC Emergency Room care. Kalispell Regional Medical Center Trauma Center recently received the Level III certification for trauma care. The hospital offers an entire continuum of care to address the needs of all injured patients. There are other hospitals in the area that offer emergency care as well.
After arrival at the KRMC Emergency Room my friends will treat and stabilize the victim and refer them on for the most appropriate level of care. I have been priveledged to watch this team of caring professionals at work and they are just that highly skilled professionals. I have climbed with many of them, have worked side by side on difficult cases with most of them and laughed with all of them and it is in their hands I would want to be when the chips are all down.
Introduction:The following articles focus on tragedies in Glacier National Park and the stories that are read are a testament to the men and women who are the “rescuers” for survivors and also aide in the “recovery” of those less fortunate. Their stories also afford us the opportunity to learn from others unfortunate mistakes and perhaps not repeat them when we venture into the wilds in our neighborhood.
Most of this information is from The Inside Trail a magazine published by the Glacier park Foundation or from the Glacier National Park website and I have attempted to give credit where credit is due. I have edited the articles as necessary for ease of reading. But the information is quoted as found in the articles.
Fall on Little Chief Mountain, 2007
Glacier National Park rangers and wardens from Banff National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada cooperated in the rescue of an injured hiker on July 3, 2007. The hiker, Denis Twohig, 68, from Whitefish, Mont., had taken a 15 foot pendulum fall while leading a technical rock climb on the “Gendarme” in Glacier. The fall occurred around 5:30 p.m. on July 2. Twohig’s fall was stopped by his climbing partner. The uninjured partner lowered Twohig a short distance to a ledge and secured him. Gendarme is a prominent feature on the northeast ridge of Little Chief Mountain in the St. Mary Valley.
The partner then left the injured climber and descended Little Chief Mountain. At about 11:00 p.m., the partner reached the Rising Sun Lodge Store and reported the accident to Glacier Dispatch. Recognizing the extreme technical nature of the incident and the emergency medical needs of the patient, park rangers held search and rescue (SAR) planning sessions through the early morning hours to coordinate different rescue options.
After a reconnaissance flight and a briefing by Glacier park rangers, two Canadian park wardens were each inserted via short haul using a Parks Canada helicopter to Twohig’s location in the notch of the Gendarme. After securing the patient, he was short hauled from the ledge and then transferred to ALERT air ambulance and flown to Kalispell Regional Hospital around 9 a.m.
Parks Canada utilizes highly trained helicopter pilots and park wardens for technical SAR missions throughout the mountain parks of Canada. Their assistance was critical as they provided the most viable option for Twohig’s immediate rescue.
This rescue is an excellent example of the outstanding relationship and true partnership between Parks Canada and the National Park Service at Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. This relationship is well documented by the Peace Park agreement and is cultivated by frequent contact and cooperation between the two park staffs. Waterton-Glacier is the world’s first International Peace Park and 2007 is the 75th anniversary of the Peace Park designation.
Officials at Glacier National Park note that parties of at least three are preferred for all hiking and climbing activities. This party size ensures that if a member of the group needs assistance, someone can remain with the injured, while someone else seeks assistance. The Inside Trail
Lost on Battlement Mountain, 2007
Officials at Glacier National Park report that a female visitor, Rhonda Stevens, missing since Thursday, June 14, was spotted and rescued around 5 p.m. today, June 15, by the crew of one of the responding helicopters. Stevens indicated that she was not seriously injured and declined medical treatment on scene.
Stevens, 48, from Columbia Falls, Mont., and a male companion entered the park at the Walton Ranger Station on Wednesday, June 13, 2007. The two had traveled into the Park Creek Drainage to hike to Battlement Mountain. While hiking off-trail through tall brush, the pair became separated.
The incident was reported to the park’s dispatch center this morning at 9 a.m. by the hiking partner. He indicated he had been last seen Stevens on Thursday around 3 p.m. near the Rotunda Cirque. He had searched unsuccessfully for her for several hours the preceding evening.
Glacier Park staff, drawn in from across the park and from several divisions, immediately began the search, conducted by air and by foot. The search was also an interagency effort and included: Customs and Border Protection Air Operations from Great Falls; U.S. Border Patrol from Whitefish, Mont.; Flathead Search and Rescue; the U.S. Forest Service; and Minute Man Helicopter. Their assistance contributed to the successful resolution of this incident.
Stevens was located on a "saddle" in the area between Mount St. Nicholas and Striped Elk Lake. The helicopter was able to land near Stevens and transported her back to West Glacier.
Officials recommend that visitors not hike alone in the park. Group members should stay together and each person should be equipped with essential survival equipment. Party members should also discuss contingency plans for regrouping in the event that anyone becomes separated. Glacier National Park News
Life Threatening Slide off Snowfield, 2006A male hiker was rescued by park personnel near Lunch Creek (between Siyeh Bend and Logan Pass.) The victim apparently tumbled 20 yards down a talus slope after sliding down a snowfield. After being stabilized by park personnel, rangers prepared him for transport by the air ambulance ALERT to Kalispell Regional Medical Center. His injuries are believed to be non life-threatening. Glacier National Park News
Atsina Lake Fall, 2006
Glacier National Park announced that park staff and the ALERT crew extracted an injured hiker from the Atsina Lake area in the Belly River drainage.
The visitor was injured in a fall in the Atsina Lake area of the Belly River drainage was Caleb Olis-Cartmell, 18, from Brookston, Indiana who was hiking with a group of Boy Scouts, sustained extensive injuries to his extremities from the fall. Olis-Cartmell is in stable condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
It appears that he was down-climbing through cliffs southeast of Stony Indian Pass when he slipped at about 12:30 p.m. He fell approximately 90 vertical feet to a 30 degree talus and scree slope, and then tumbled further downslope.
A Glacier Wilderness Guides group leader came upon the scene at approximately 1:15 p.m. and reported the incident using a satellite phone. A helicopter assigned to the Red Eagle Fire transported park personnel to the accident area. The ALERT helicopter also flew to the scene with a flight nurse and flight paramedic.
Given that the victim was only 175 yards from the trailhead and suitable landing spots were in the immediate area, rescue personal arrived on the scene quickly. The victim was transported to the ALERT helicopter on a litter by park staff with assistance from Glacier Wilderness Guides and the Boy Scouts.
The victim was transported by the ALERT helicopter to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, leaving the park at about 4:00 p.m. He was transferred late yesterday to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he is listed in critical condition. Glacier National Park News and Glacier National Park News
Fall at Hidden Lake, 2006
Officials at Glacier National Park report that park staff rescued a visitor who had fallen to a ledge above Hidden Lake last night, July 20. The visitor, Ben Evans, 22, from Michigan, only sustained cuts and bruises from the fall.
Evans was believed to be taking a short-cut off-trail to Hidden Lake from the Overlook when he stumbled and fell about 15 feet to a ledge. He was unable to get off the ledge, and began calling for help. A fisherman heard his call and notified the Logan Pass Visitor Center around 6 p.m.
The rescue was a team effort and included employees from law enforcement, trail crew, maintenance, interpretation, resource management, and a park volunteer. Rescuers determined that Evans could not be accessed from below and that a technical rescue would be required. A team of four rappelled approximately 100 feet to the ledge and assessed Evans. Evans was placed in a seat harness and he was lowered about 80 feet to the base of the cliff via a tandem rappel. Evans and the rescuers hiked back to Logan Pass, where they arrived just before midnight.
Park officials remind visitors to stay on designated trails, not to hike alone, and to leave an itinerary with someone. Glacier National Park News
Death on Clements Mountain, 1999
In July 1999, 56 year old Craig Ryan, an experienced climber most recently of Florida fell to his death while attempting a solo climb of Clements Mountain. He had apparently reached the summit and was descending when the accident occurred. He had registered with the park's voluntary climber registration system, which allowed park authorities to locate his body quickly. The Inside Trail
Deaths on Rainbow Peak, 1998
Two very experienced climbers died while attempting to climb Rainbow Peak in the summer of 1998. The mountain is located at the head of Bowman Lake in the North Fork region. Mark Robison, 24, of Columbia Falls, MT and Chris Foster, 23, of Whitefish were just a few hundred feet from the summit of the peak, climbing up a steep, snow-covered chimney on the northwest face when they fell to their death. The cause of their fall was unknown, but both were knowledgeable and safety conscious. They were not roped together, but both were wearing crampons and using ice axes. Robison established a record in Glacier's unofficial mountaineering record book when he and a friend climbed 10 peaks in 24 hours in 1996.
Searchers on Saturday found the bodies of two men who fell to their deaths in a climb on one of Glacier National Park's peaks. Mark Robison of Columbia Falls, Mont., and Chris Foster of Whitefish were close to the top of the 9,891-foot Rainbow Peak when they fell, said a park spokeswoman, Amy Vanderbilt. Officials said they did not know why the men fell.
They were knowledgeable and very experienced climbers and mountaineers,'' Ms. Vanderbilt said. Rangers said the men, both 24-year-old seasonal employees in the park, were climbing in a steep, snow-covered chute on the peak's north face. The climbing deaths were the first in the park this year. Two park employees died in separate climbing accidents in 1996. New York Times and The Inside Trail
Red Gap Pass Waterfall Falls, 1998The final fatality of the 1998 summer in the Park came in late July. Brian Donald-Nelson, 27, of Seattle fell to his death while hiking the trail to Redgap Pass along with his wife and two other companions.
The hiking party had stopped to rest near an unnamed waterfall a mile and a half southeast of Redgap Pass. Donald-Nelson attempted to get water from the stream above the falls. He slipped on wet rocks and fell about 150 feet to his death.
A month later, a second hiker fell less catastrophically down the same waterfall while trying to filter water. Erik Von Ranson, 32, of Manhattan fractured his skull and fractured and dislocated a hip in a 40-foot fall.
Von Ranson's party kept him warm with sleeping bags for about 8 hours waiting for help to reach the site. A hiker sped l0 miles to the Belly River Ranger Station and left a note for the ranger, who was on patrol. The ranger found the note at 6 PM, and helicopters were summoned.
A specially-equipped Canadian helicopter lowered a rescuer into the ravine where Von Ranson had fallen. The rescuer placed Von Ranson in a "Bauman Bag" while the helicopter hovered above. Then the helicopter towed the bag to a meadow where a second helicopter was parked. Von Ranson was transferred aboard this helicopter and flown from the Park at nightfall. The Inside Trail
Parachuting on Mount Siyeh, 1998
Probably the most bizarre story of the 1998 summer involved a foolhardy parachutist whose September 24th leap off of Mt. Siyeh down toward Cracker Lake ended 400 ft. below the summit. James Kaufmann, 40, of Marion, MT, hit a wall immediately after jumping and his chute got caught on a rock. One of his three friends on the summit immediately called for assistance, reaching a Browning resident who called the county sheriff's office, who in turn called the Glacier Park ranger station.
The daring rescue effort involved a park ranger who rappelled down the side of the mountain to pull up Kaufmann, who was perched on a narrow ledge and had suffered only minor injuries. A total of eight rangers were involved in his rescue, along with other Park employees assisting. Kaufmann was transported by helicopter to Kalispell, where he was treated and released. The Park Service is trying to recover the cost of the $5,000 to 10,000 rescue effort from Kaufmann. The Inside Trail
Bears on Mount Sinopah, 1997 and 1998
On May 17, 1998 a young concession employee, newly arrived in Glacier, went hiking alone on the Scenic Point trail from Two Medicine toward East Glacier. Craig Dahl, 26, had just been hired to drive a "jammer" tour bus. When Dahl did not report for work, a search was carried out by Park rangers, concession employees and local groups.
Dahl's body was found on the second day of the search near Appistoki Falls. The corpse had been partly eaten by bears. Marks in the snow suggested that Dahl had encountered a family of bears on the trail, had fled downhill, and had been chased by the bears, killed and preyed upon after a struggle.
Investigators focused on a sow grizzly which had been nicknamed "Chocolate Legs" and on her two-year-old twin young. Bear scat collected at the scene was matched to these bears by DNA testing. Human DNA was identified in the bear scat samples as well.
"Chocolate Legs" was hunted down and shot to death by rangers near No Name Lake. One of her offspring was captured and euthanatized, but the other young bear disappeared. For three weeks, the Two Medicine Valley was tense. In late June, the bear reemerged dramatically, menacing a party of 17 hikers near the head of Two Medicine Lake. The bear woofed, growled, made bluff charges, and shadowed a man who strayed from the party. Rangers pursued the bear and shot it on the flanks of Mt. Sinopah.
Dahl's death raised new speculation about the disappearance of hiker Matthew Truszkowski in 1997. Truszkowski, another concession employee, vanished in the Two Medicine Valley, probably while climbing Mt. Sinopah. Searchers had been bluff-charged by the Chocolate Legs family while combing the flanks of the mountain, and thought that the bears were behaving strangely. After Dahl's death, the Park Service used ''cadaver dogs'' (especially trained to find human remains) to search on Mt. Sinopah, but found no sign of Truszkowski.
The search being conducted was for a missing GPF employee who was a computer operator at Glacier Park Lodge. Matthew Truszkowski, 25, of Lexington, MI, left the lodge on July 5, 1997 to do a solo climb of Sinopah Mountain. When he did not meet his friends at the end of the day the Park Service was notified and a search was begun. His disappearance remains a mystery, along with four others in the Park's history who were never found. An extensive ground and aerial search was conducted and another was planned for the fall, after the leaves had fallen. Truszkowski is presumed dead. The Inside Trail
The following story ran in the Sunday, August 31, 2008, edition of the Daily Interlake from Kalispell, MT.
The remains of a Michigan man who disappeared in Glacier National Park in 1997 have been recovered, the park’s chief ranger and the Glacier County sheriff confirmed this week.
The remains of Matthew Truszkowski were discovered in summer 2006, but it was not made public because of a lengthy process of identifying the remains that was never conclusive, Glacier County Sheriff Wayne Dusterhoff said.
Acting on an anonymous tip, the Inter Lake inquired last week about the recovery with Glacier Chief Ranger Mark Faust.
“I can tell you that we found what we believe to human remains at the base of Sinopah Mountain in the summer of 2006,” said Faust, adding that the case was turned over to Dusterhoff, who also is the county coroner.
Faust said an off-trail hiker found a rubber boot sole at the bottom of an avalanche chute below the southern cliffs on Sinopah Mountain, one of the more prominent features in the Two Medicine Valley.
“Some rangers went up and searched the area and found bone fragments,” Faust said. “A more extensive search found more bone fragments and part of a credit card.”
Dusterhoff said the bone fragments were sent to the State Crime Lab in Bozeman, and there was a protracted but unsuccessful effort to derive DNA from the remains.
“They also found and turned over to us a portion of a credit card which we managed to get a return on that it was probably [Truszkowski’s], based on a few numbers we had,” Dusterhoff said.
Because the remains were not handled by a physician or mortuary, and due to the inconclusive DNA analysis, Dusterhoff had to prepare a special death certificate that was submitted to the state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics.
“I’m assuming that it has gone through and there were no glitches,” he said. Death certificates are not public records in Montana until 30 years after a person dies.
Dusterhoff said the certificate says the cause of death is “undetermined” and “possible climbing accident in Glacier National Park.”
Truszkowski was a 25-year-old from Lexington, Mich., who was working at the Glacier Park Lodge during summer 1997. He told friends that he intended to climb to the summit of Sinopah Mountain on July 5, and when he failed to return, a massive search was launched.
At its peak, the search involved up to 50 people, helicopters and search dogs. After 10 days it was scaled back, and by the end of the summer it was over. Truszkowski had disappeared without a trace until 2006.
Avalanche on Mount Cleveland, 1969
Another tragedy struck five families in December of 1969. This one hit very close to home as one of the climbers James Anderson’s family was close friends of my grandparents. His brother Bud was actively involved in the search for his brother and the other climbers. Bud and his brother Don were active local business men in the Flathead Valley.
This group of 5 experienced climbers were attempting the first winter ascent of Mount Cleveland and were swept to their deaths by a slab avalanche. Their bodies were found the following summer still roped together.
I could not possibly tell this story more effectively than the following atricle does. For more information on this tragedy follow this And None Came Back link.
Thanks again to Fred Spicker for his information regarding The Mount Cleveland Tragedy.
September 1, 1997
A fall while descending from Mount Cleveland resulted in the death of a member of a climbing party. Jim Egan's trip report chronicles this incident that lead to Roger Dokken's death from a fall while on the traverse route below Stoney Indian Peaks. Jim's trip report is found at Mount Cleveland Fall.
Local climber injured near Heavy Runner Mountain, 2000
It is not just "weekend warriors that are injured or worse while spending time at Glacier National Park as evidenced in the next two articles. Both of these gentlemen are from the Flathead Valley and have spent a lot of time in the mountains.
On July 27, 2000 Ed Prach, 75, of Whitefish, Montana, fell while climbing with the Over The Hill Gang while circumnavigating Mount Reynolds sustaining head lacerations, multiple fractures to both legs, and a ruptured kidney.
Prach was climbing with five others in the saddle between Reynolds and Heavy Runner Mountains when he evidently lost his footing, fell 15 to 20 feet over a rock ledge, then rolled another 100 feet down a steep snow field.
Witnesses said he looked like a rag doll falling down the snow
slopes and crashed into boulders at the base. Fortunately, SAR member
Chuck Kempner scrambled down and was able to stem the blood loss which
otherwise would have killed him before he could be airlifted out.
Prach's companions climbed down to him and stabilized his injuries; some of them then hiked out to the Logan Pass VC and notified the park.
Park staff in the vicinity hiked to the area and treated Prach. Other park personnel, including park medics, were flown to the scene along with requisite rescue gear.
Because of the steep terrain, Prach had to be belayed about 200 feet down a slope to the nearest safe landing zone. He was flown by helicopter to Kalispell Regional Hospital, where he was last reported to be in critical
condition. Thanks to jimegan for this information which is from CanyoneeringUSA.
Local Climber Dies on Mount Gould, 1992
The following information is from jimegan.
Twenty year old Josh Skibsrud, from Kalispell, had gone to Logan Pass to climb with a friend who backed out due to the poor weather. He met Don Scharf and another climber who were out to scout a route for a GMS climb and invited himself to join them.
While climbing Gould took different approaches and when Don reached the top Josh never showed up. His body was later found beneath some big cliffs.
The following spring, Saintgrizzly and jimegan were trying to climb to the Gem Notch on a day with lots of verglas on the rock and found Josh's backpack which had never been recovered. It was like a bad omen, and we retreated and turned it in the rangers at West Glacier.
The Rangers contacted Don Scarf who tried to return it to the family, but was unable to do so for whatever reason.
Josh Skibsrud was an accomplished musician in Kalispell playing violin in the orchestra, I believe. He was also a very aggressive climber according to entries he made in various summit registers. That is about all I can recollect about the incident.
Swiftcurrent Incidents, 2000
Death of Concession Employee
Concession employee Christopher Wolk, 26, of Astoria, New York, died yesterday morning as a result of massive head trauma sustained in an accident that occurred late on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 8th, 2000.
Wolk was swimming with other concession employees just below a waterfall in Swiftcurrent Creek when a 20-pound rock fell about 50 feet and struck him in the head.
Rangers were notified by other swimmers and responded quickly. They had to employ technical climbing methods to reach Wolk and raise him from the creek. He was then flown by air ambulance to a hospital in Great Falls, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Backpacker Injured in Bear Encounter
Kelly Krpata, 26, and Kim Taffer, 27, both from Ann Arbor, Michigan, were hiking down the Swiftcurrent Pass trail on the morning of August 14th when they rounded a bend and encountered a dark brown adult bear coming towards them in a full-blown charge.
Krpata, who was in the lead, dropped into a fetal position just as the bear hit him. Taffer dropped to the ground and curled up in some bushes just off the trail. During the 10-second attack, Krpata sustained laceration and puncture wounds to his thighs and hips and his pack and sleeping pad were damaged.
The bear then approached Taffer, but left her alone and departed.
Investigating rangers believe that their response minimized Krpata's injuries and probably prevented the bear from mauling Taffer. They told the rangers that they were very glad that they had watched the park's backcountry video, as they otherwise would not have known what to do during a bear attack.
Krpata was transported by litter to the trailhead, then taken by ambulance to Browning Hospital for treatment of his injuries. The attack occurred in an area of thick sub-alpine fur near the head of Bullhead Lake. The trail has been temporarily closed between Swiftcurrent Pass and the trailhead in Many Glacier Valley.
This information is from CanyoneeringUSA.
The Ptarmigan Tunnel Tragedy
In early July 1998, a woman lost her life falling over the parapet north of Ptarmigan Tunnel. The accident was one of the most freakish in the history of Glacier Park.
Connie Lindsay, 47, of Polson, Montana had ridden to the tunnel from Many Glacier. She was accompanied by her husband and two companions, also on horseback. They led their horses through the tunnel and remained dismounted to view the scenery on the other side.
Lindsay stopped to take a picture some 25 yards from the tunnel gates. She was standing beside low stone parapet (which is less than three feet high) overlooking hundreds of feet of sheer cliffs. Lindsay's horse was standing beside her, eating snow from a snowbank. The horse abruptly jerked and stumbled, perhaps reacting to the coldness of the snow. It knocked Lindsay onto the retaining wall, then the horse lost its footing and fell on top of her. Horse and rider both rolled over the wall and fell for hundreds of feet.
Lindsay's husband rode to Many Glacier to get help. Rangers helicoptered to an area below the cliffs. They climbed up dangerous pitches of scree and snow to recover Lindsay's body from a chimney in the rocks.
The Glacier Park Foundation carried a tragic story about an accident at The Ptarmigan Tunnel in their Fall 1998 publication, The Inside Trail.
This story takes on a more immediate reality when standing at the northern adit of the Ptarmigan and looking over the edge of the rock retaining wall. That is a long way down there. Imagine the horror that this family must have experienced during this tragedy. It also hits home and become more of a reality when I visited with a colleague who was a member of the recovery team.
2009 Ahern Pass Tragedy
On August 22, a climber fell to his death while climbing on the Iceberg Notch to Ahern Pass portion of the Ptarmigan Wall Traverse to Ahern Pass Goat Trail route.
The climber, Dr. William H. Labunetz who was a retired physician from Great Falls, Montana, fell approximately 300 feet while climbing down from Ahern Pass. He was with a climbing partner and had climbed this route on a previous occassion.
The Great Falls Tribune story reads that: "No one is sure exactly what caused Labunetz to fall but Kotynski said there is always a risk involved, no matter how experienced a hiker may be. Kotynski said the Ptarmigan Traverse of the Iceberg Notch is one of the "premiere backcountry experiences" in Glacier that he had no doubt Labunetz was capable of tackling."
This tragedy once again shows that caution and sound judgment must always be used when climbing in Glacier National Park.
This information is from Great Falls Tribune.
2011 Point 8888The death of twenty-seven year-old climber Jacob Rigby rocked the NPS service in August 2011 after he was reported missing when he failed to show up at work. Jacob was attempting a difficult traverse in an isolated area of Glacier National Park. His body was located and recovered below an unnamed point 8888 between the Ole Creek and Park Creek drainages. He will be greatly missed.
It is unknown exactly what caused his fall.
Point 8888 Tragedy