A Minnesota man fell to his death Saturday while he and his son attempted to climb Granite Peak — the highest peak in Montana and one of the most technically difficult summits in the Lower 48.
The man’s body was recovered Tuesday morning after weather prevented a helicopter from reaching the area sooner. Authorities haven’t yet released the man’s name.
The 65-year-old from Circle Pines and his 33-year-old son, from Ramsey, both experienced climbers, were attempting to climb the highest peak in each state and had eight more to complete, according to Park County Sheriff Brad Bichler, who helped oversee the recovery effort.
Granite Peak is in the Beartooth Mountain range north of Yellowstone National Park. Reaching the summit at 12,807 feet involves trekking along exposed areas and scree fields, Bichler said.
“Granite is one of the most rugged if not the most rugged in the Lower 48,” he said.
The men were about 200 feet from the summit between 3 and 4 p.m. on Saturday when the father apparently lost his footing and fell more than 100 feet, the sheriff said.
“It doesn’t appear that anyone did anything wrong. It was a tragic accident,” he said.
The two were not roped together, Bichler said.
The son, realizing his father hadn’t survived, hurried down the mountain to notify authorities. By the time he could get help six hours later, it was too dark to launch a recovery effort, Bichler said.
A recovery team lifted off in a helicopter at daylight Sunday but discovered it would have to enlist a high-angle rope team to drop down from the helicopter because there was no place to land, Bichler explained.
“Then the weather turned bad for us,” he said. A team was finally able to recover the body on Tuesday morning.
A few hundred people climb Granite Peak each year, said Austin Hart, owner of Beartooth Mountain Guides in Red Lodge, Mont.
“It’s one of the hardest high points in the U.S.,” he said, noting that it’s a steep climb with a lot of exposure and permanent snowfields that make it technically difficult terrain. “It requires technical rock climbing, experience and mountaineering. It needs to be treated with a lot of respect.”
The last fatality on the peak was in 2016, he said.
“We’re saddened by [another] loss,” Hart said.