The Cleveland tragedy

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Editorís note: In December, 1969, Clare Pogreba, Ray Martin, Jerry Kanzler, Jim Anderson and Mark Levitan, all Montana men in their late teens and early 20s, died in an avalanche on Mount Cleveland in Glacier National Park. It was the worst tragedy in Glacier Park history. Their bodies were recovered the following summer in June. This G. George Ostrom column from 1970 recalls the incident...

My park-employed companion was Fred Goodsell and we got along well. My notes now show that I was wrong about where the lost climbers would be found. I was wrong by 200 vertical feet and 60 horizontal feet.

The kind of rain that loosens rock and makes climbing dangerous occurred at around 2:20 p.m. and, though I felt a strong compulsion to continue searching, Fred and I left the mountain at 3 p.m., frustrated. The first body was found about 40 hours later on Monday, June 29.

120 hours after I left the fantastically beautiful and overpowering heights of Mt. Cleveland, I stood in a wildflower meadow near Chief Mountain and watched a helicopter come in and land.

We removed and identified the body of Jerry Kanzler, put a peace cross upon his chest, laid him in a simple pine casket, and returned him over the continental divide to the valley where he grew up. We buried him next to his father, an uncommon and complicated man.

Jerry Kanzler and I only really suffered once together, that was on a goat hunt in the Mission Range, the first year he got his license, and even then we had a lot of fun.

Five young men died on the west slope of Cleveland last January, and there will always be some mystery to exactly how they died.

How is basically irrelevant.

Many men risked exposure to serious danger in the January search and there was a little bit of danger in the recovery, but the greatest display of courage I observed in the entire operation was Jerryís mother conducting her sonís graveside rites.

She even helped us take the casket from my camper and she read a poem that choked up every man there Ö because it said it like it is.

Perhaps the most uncommon Kanzler of all may be a woman called Jean.

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