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Fallen climbers attempting true summit of Dusty Star Mountain

| August 3, 2022 6:00 AM

By CHRIS PETERSON

Hungry Horse News

Tragedy struck the Flathead Valley climbing community last week as the identities of two men killed in a fall on Dusty Star Mountain in Glacier National Park were revealed.

Glacier County coroner Cpl. Jason Sullivan confirmed that Brian Kennedy of Columbia Falls and Jack Beard of Kalispell were roped together when the accident occurred July 22. Both men were 67.

Both men were also wearing helmets. They fell an estimated 800 to 900 feet off the sheer east face of Dusty Star Mountain, above a snowfield. Their bodies were found on a rock ledge above the snowfield.

Based on photos, it appeared the rock the men were anchored to gave way, Sullivan said.

The men were reported missing after they failed to return from the trip they started July 21.

The approach to Dusty Star from the east requires a difficult bushwhack above Virginia Falls just to get to the base of the mountain.

Kennedy was the longtime editor, publisher and owner of the Hungry Horse News from 1978 to early 1999. He was an award-winning journalist during his tenure with the Hungry Horse News.

Beard owned Beard Cabinets in Kalispell.

Kennedy and Beard were expert climbers and have been summitting mountain peaks in Glacier National Park for decades. Both men contributed greatly to the Glacier Mountaineering Society and were well-known in the Flathead Valley community.

They had done multiple, and often technical, climbs together according to the Society and stories told in Going to the Sun, the climbing journal of the Society.

The men were reported missing on July 24.

An air search began on July 24 in the Dusty Star Mountain area on the east side route of approach. Two Bear Air flew on July 24 in daylight and darkness. Minuteman Aviation took over the air search with Park Service spotters on board on the morning of July 25 and located the bodies of the climbers. The bodies were recovered on the same day by Two Bear Air.

Sullivan estimated they perished four days before they were found.

Glacier National Park is also investigating the accident as well, though it could be weeks before a report is completed, Park officials note.

Fellow climbers and friends Don Scharfe and Orin Webber returned to the scene over the weekend to retrieve the men’s packs. Scharfe said Monday Beard and Kennedy bivoauced below the snowfield at 6,250 feet Thursday night, because they had a late start and the approach from Virginia Falls alone is a difficult journey. Kennedy, according to his own logs, had been up Dusty Star twice before, but the men were trying to reach the highest spire of the mountain at 8,064 feet.

While Scharfe and Webber were able to find and retrieve the men’s gear, Scharfe said it would be difficult to tell definitively if the men were rappelling down or climbing when the accident occurred without examining photos taken at the scene by Two Bear Air crews.

A memorial service for Beard will be held Wednesday, Aug. 3, (today) at 4 p.m. at Herron Park in Kalispell.

A memorial for Kennedy will be at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29 at the Glacier Outdoor Center Parkview Pavilion in West Glacier.

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