Photo courtesy of www.nols.edu
Peter Absolon, 47, was killed by rock fall in the Wind River Range on August 11, apparently the victim of a rock thrown from above by a hiker. Absolon, the Rocky Mountain Director of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Lander, Wyoming, was attempting a new route in the Leg Lake Cirque in the southern Winds, and was belaying about 800 feet above the ground. His partner had just arrived at the stance when the rock was thrown from the top, about 300 feet overhead. Absolon was killed hit in the head (he was wearing a helmet) and died almost immediately. His body was recovered by a rescue team from Grand Teton National Park.
Absolon had worked for NOLS since 1990 and was a former director of the American Mountain Guides Association. He leaves a wife, Molly, and 6-year-old daughter, Avery. Many friends and fellow climbers are leaving tributes to Absolon at the Supertopo forum. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, August 19, at 3 p.m. at the CWC/Sinks Canyon Center, five miles southwest of Lander.
According to the Casper Star-Tribune, the Fremont County coroner’s and sheriff’s offices are investigating the incident. The hiker who threw or pushed the rock is reportedly cooperating with authorities, but they would not comment on an active investigation.
In 1994, a climber on the North Face of Granite Peak in Montana was killed when three climbers on the summit pushed rocks down the face. The young men pled guilty to negligent endangerment and paid fines and restitution ranging from $1,000 to more than $10,000 each; one of their sentences also included some jail time.
The small, close-knit communities of Lander and NOLS have suffered a number of losses from climbing accidents in recent years. In 2005, Jim Ratz, co-owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and former executive director of NOLS, was killed in Sinks Canyon in a rappelling accident, probably as he was checking out a new route. And in October 2006, Todd Skinner died when his harness failed in Yosemite Valley as he was descending from an attempt on a new free climb. Both men were married with young children.
A memorial fund has been established for the Absolons’ daughter, Avery.Checks can be made out to The Peter Absolon Memorial Fund and mailed to:Bank of the West 303 Main St. Lander, WY 82520Proceeds will be used to continue the tradition of adventure and exploration that Avery shared with her father.