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Montana is very mountainous, in fact there are at least 100 mountain ranges and sub-ranges. They are beautiful, big and full of unique fauna and flora. Although many people hike mountain trails every day, there is always a risk. It’s rare for an accident to happen on a mountain, but it’s still good to be prepared.
Interestingly, some mountains in Montana are considered more dangerous than others. Follow us to learn more about the most dangerous mountains in Montana and why.
Granite peaks in the Beartooth Mountains
Mountaineering involves risks. Anything can happen including animal attacks, dehydration, illness and accidents. Although Montana does not have the highest number of mountaineering accidents, this is probably because the number of mountain climbers is lower than other states. Still, some gruesome and heartbreaking fatal accidents have happened in the many mountains, so it is advisable to know about the dangerous mountains in Montana.
Every year some people try to climb Granite Peak in the Beartooth Mountains. The summit is at an elevation of 12,807 feet. This is the highest natural point in Montana and the 10th highest in the country. Not many climbers attempt this peak, as some consider it the second most difficult peak in the state.
In 2020, some climbers suffered accidents while climbing Granite Peak. While attempting to cross a dangerous area called the Snow Bridge, a man slipped and fell 100 feet. He was saved. However, four Idaho men suffered another accident while rappelling down a slope the same day. They anchored themselves in a big border, but she gave way. One of the four was injured while the others died after falling about 1,000 feet. That’s just two incidents.
Mount Cleveland is one of the most dangerous mountains in Montana. It’s a big mountain in Glacier National Park. While not the state’s tallest mountain, it does offer some spectacular views and daring slopes. This beautiful mountain sits at an elevation of 10,479 feet. Although some people may have climbed Mount Cleveland earlier, the first recorded ascent was in 1920 by Frank B. Wynn. Most climbers begin their adventure in the Waterton Valley. Other routes are considered more dangerous and are best left to professionals. Although this mountain is relatively safe, a shocking accident killed five climbers, making it one of the deadliest mountains in Montana.
In 1969, just two days after Christmas, five brave climbers were swept away by an avalanche and killed. Clare Pogreba, Ray Martin, Jerry Kanzler, Jim Anderson and Mark Levitan tried to climb the mountain and told everyone not to worry and be back by January 2nd. However, they didn’t make it back. Instead, on January 3, families, friends and volunteers went looking for the boys. They found ski tracks leading to an abandoned base camp and some footprints in the snow. Because of the harsh conditions, their bodies were not found for another five months. This tragic accident changed their community forever.
Dusty Star Mountain
Dusty Star Mountain is a popular mountain in Montana and one of the most dangerous mountains in Montana. It sits at an elevation of 8,573 feet. Although not the tallest mountain in Montana, it is frequently photographed. Tourists can enjoy a spectacular view of this mountain near Wild Goose Island. This stunning mountain is also very old, having started to rise 170 million years ago. Dusty Star Mountain is very cold in the winter, with temperatures falling well below -10°F.
Unfortunately, a number of accidents and tragedies have claimed lives here. For example, in 2022, two friends and veteran climbers, Brian Kennedy and Jack Beard, fell to their deaths while climbing the steep north face of Dusty Star Mountain. They were both well known in their community and belonged to the Glacier Mountaineering Society. A recovered photo of the two standing atop the 8,084-foot peak leads experts to believe they fell between 600 and 1,000 feet on their descent.
Another dangerous mountain in Montana is the Lone Mountain. It is in the Madison Range. You can find the peak in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness within the Gallatin and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forests. The height of the mountain is 11,167 feet. Big Sky Resort, a large ski resort, also occupies parts of Lone Mountain.
While most of the mountain-related deaths in this article are related to rock climbing, skiing and snowboarding also come with a risk. In 2012, a 24-year-old skier, Bradley Gardner, lost his life after going out alone. About a decade later, a snowboarder also died. On Lone Mountain’s North Summit Snowfield, 29-year-old Chandler Pelletier of Belgrade fell to his death. He was found unresponsive and unfortunately officers attempting to resuscitate the snowboarder were unsuccessful.
Next on our list of Montana’s most dangerous mountains is Rising Wolf Mountain, another popular mountain in the Lewis Range of Glacier National Park. The mountain has an elevation of 9,513 feet. The peak is very noticeable as it rises above the Two Medicine region. Rising Wolf Mountain experiences cold and severe winters with wind chill factors below -30°F. Another name for this mountain is “Mahkuyi-opuahsin”, which means “the path on which the wolf climbs”. This name was given by the Blackfoot, who consider the Two Medicines region sacred ground.
The most recent incident at Rising Wolf Mountain occurred in July 2022. A 79-year-old Florida man fell while climbing a cliff with a group of friends. His friends called for help and he was transported by helicopter to Two Medicine Ranger Station. However, the crew of the air ambulance declared the climber dead. He probably fell several hundred meters.
Another beautiful and tall mountain in Glacier National Park is Mount Brown. The mountain sits at an elevation of 8,589 feet. While visiting Mount Brown, you can also see the historic 1928 Mount Brown Fire Lookout. It is located on the southwestern slopes of Mount Brown. Interestingly, there is an ongoing debate as to who the mountain is named after. One theory holds that it was named after William Brown of Chicago, while others believe it was named after Louis Brown, a Montana pioneer.
Unfortunately, another life ended tragically at Mount Brown. Winslow Nichols of Columbia Falls, a 19-year-old rock climber, has been reported missing by his friend and climbing partner. The two wanted to climb the mountain together. Winslow Nichols fell to his death and his body was recovered after being spotted by a helicopter.
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