American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Montana, Delmo Lake, Granite Batholith

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1960

Montana, Delmo Lake, Granite Batholith—On May 17, Gary D. Alexander (21), Force F. Bany, Jr. (19), John Sikkar (25), and Gary Harper (18), were planning to do some practice climbs. Alexander and Bany were attempting to climb a face about 200 feet high. Alexander had just attempted a route that would not go and had descended to the shoulders of Bany. As he was descending beside Bany, Harper shouted “Head’s up” meaning that a rock was falling. A rock weighing about 600 lbs. fell from the top of the face and slid across a shelf about 20 feet to one side of the climbers. Harper, who was on this shelf about 60 feet above the climbers, attempted to stop it unsuccessfully. The rock fell to a point about three feet above Alexander bounced, and broke in half. One half struck Alexander in the head, and the other Bany. Alexander was killed immediately. Bany sustained a few bruises and abrasions, Harper suffered a few abrasions and a bruised leg from his attempts to deflect the rock.

Source: Force F. Bany, Jr.

Analysis: The rock that fell may have been loosened by recent rains or the annual spring breakup. In addition, there had been a slight earthquake (force 1.5-2.0) in the area that day which conceivably might have loosened the rock. Alexander wore no hard hat and Bany did. Apparently, the same sized rock struck both men and it seems likely that Bany’s hard hat saved his life. He noted that in previous rock falls, his hard hat had been a successful protection.

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