KALISPELL - Friends recently recalled the accomplishments of two Flathead County men who died in a climbing accident in Glacier National Park.
Brian Kennedy of Columbia Falls and Jack Beard of Kalispell, both 67, were considered expert climbers in the area, summiting mountain peaks in Glacier National Park for decades.
“Disbelief, I think everyone in the mountain climbing community, even beyond Glacier Mountaineering Society, has commented about how difficult it is to lose somebody of that caliber on a climb,” said former Glacier Mountaineering Society President Ralph Thornton.
The mountaineering community in Northwest Montana is mourning the loss of two well-known, highly respected climbers.
“They were both very accomplished mountaineers, as far as climbing in Glacier is concerned. They’ve climbed some of the most technical, difficult peaks in the park,” said Thornton.
Thornton connected with Jack and Brian through the Glacier Mountaineering Society, a group of people interested in outdoor mountaineering in Northwest Montana.
“That’s probably the biggest value is meeting other people and enjoying the camaraderie of the mountain environment,” said Thornton.
He said Jack and Brian were a great team together with a long history of tough climbs spanning decades.
“They were attempting to do a more technical route on the mountain which is where they fell,” said Thornton.
The Glacier County Sheriff’s Office said Jack and Brian likely suffered a fall between 800 to 900 feet.
The cause of the fall is still under investigation.
“We don’t know whether they were ascending still or whether they reached the summit and were coming back down. A fall of that nature could happen in either one of those instances,” said Thornton.
Swan Lake resident Al Hofmeister climbed dozens of peaks with Jack and Brian over the years. He says both men always gave back to the climbing community by mentoring young climbers and passing along their knowledge.
“Their web is huge, they had so many contacts because of their willingness to share that joy with everyone,” said Hofmeister.
Thornton said it’s still hard to fathom the loss. He spent three days in the backcountry with Brian just a week before the accident.
“We had a great backpacking trip and lots of good conversation around the cooking area in the evening, to then just a week later find that he has passed in this terrible way is a tremendous shock,” said Thornton.