Glacier National Park climbing accident report, June 27, 2015

This is a media statement I wrote up and cleared with Jack and his family. It was an honor to be out climbing with him, and I look forward to getting out there again once he’s back at it (and we sort out our tahini game).

Climber injured and rescued from below the Lithoid Cusp in Glacier National Park
A statement by the climbers:

On Saturday, June 27th, mountaineers Jack Beard and David Steele, both of Kalispell, attempted to pioneer a new route up the glacial wall beneath the Lithoid Cusp in Glacier National Park. While no ropes were needed, the route traversed narrow ledges and featured much steep scrambling on loose ground over exposure. The final eight hundred feet of their planned ascent gained the ridge top by way of a steep snow chute.

Halfway up the snow chute, at approximately 11:30am, Beard lost his footing in the loose snow. He was unable to arrest, slid down the snow, and over the rocks and waterfall beneath. Steele, who was in the lead, could not see where Beard had stopped. He down-climbed the snow, then traversed a rock ledge, and spotted Beard on a small outcropping some two hundred feet below. Both men were using crampons and ice axes in the snow.

Steele descended to Beard, who had sustained fractures in his ribs, spine, and right forearm, as well as a concussion. After building a platform, anchoring Beard, flagging the area with a yellow tent draped on a snowbank, and arranging provisions so that Beard could spend the night, Steele then attempted to flag down passing flight-seeing helicopters. At 2pm, he departed to get help, climbing back up to the couloir, up the snow, and then descending the other side to Margaret Lake.

From Margaret Lake, Steele descended to Mokowanis Lake and began to ask backcountry campers if they had a satellite phone or any means of reporting the emergency. At Mokowanis Junction, Maddie Martin, a thru-hiker on the Pacific Northwest trail, offered hers. Martin sent the first SOS message dictated by Steele around 5:45pm.

Alone on the ledge, Beard endured his injuries and rockfall that popped the inflatable pad he lay on. He moved into a sleeping bag and layers as evening approached.

Assisted by Martin, Steele sent and received several messages from Glacier Park dispatch. Eventually, rangers instructed Steele to head east toward the Belly River Ranger Station to meet a ranger headed the opposite direction to meet him. They connected around 8:15pm and used radio contact to fix Beard’s location for searchers.

Once spotted by the park contract helicopter, Two Bear Air was requested due to the steep terrain and lack of landing area. Two Bear staff were lowered, arranged Beard, and transported him to Many Glacier. Beard then went to Browning by ambulance, and was transferred to Great Falls due to the extent of his injuries.

Beard and Steele are immensely grateful for all the efforts put forth in this rescue. They’d like to thank especially Maddie and Jeanne Martin, Bruce Gillis, the Glacier National Park dispatch and incident teams, as well as the crews of the helicopters. The speed and ease of the rescue was made possible by the incredible crew at Two Bear Air, and both climbers tip their helmets to those fine folks. 
Beard and Steele are confident that if they’d carried a large quantity of tahini in their supplies, nothing could have possibly gone wrong.

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