NOLS DIRECTOR KILLED BY TRUNDLED ROCK

Posted on: August 14, 2007


Peter Absolon (47), who was killed by rockfall on Saturday, August 11, while climbing with friend and fellow NOLS instructor, Steve Herlihy in Wyoming's Wind River Range. Phil Powers, Absolon's friend and Executive Director of the American Alpine Club (AAC), declared that the rock was trundled purposefully by a hiker, who had no knowledge of the climbers below. [Photo] Courtesy of nols.blogs.com

On Saturday, August 11, Peter Absolon (47) was killed instantly when a falling rock struck him from approximately 300 feet above while climbing a new route in Leg Lake Cirque, southern Wind River Range, Wyoming. Phil Powers, Absolon's friend and Executive Director of the American Alpine Club (AAC), declared that the rock was trundled purposefully by a hiker, who had no knowledge of the climbers below.

Absolon was climbing with friend and fellow NOLS instructor, Steve Herlihy. The pair had just completed a pitch and were anchored 800 feet above the base of the climb. The rock hit Absolon in the back of his head; though he was wearing a helmet, he was killed instantly. Powers said that after throwing the rock, the hiker looked over the edge, and, upon seeing the rock hit Absolon, dialed 911.

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According to friend Dave Anderson, Herlihy was unaware of the trundler and believed the rockfall to be spontaneous. He immediately rappelled to find shelter (well versed in rescue systems, Herlihy could have rappelled with Absolon's body, had he thought the scene safe). On Herlihy's way out he "met up with the trundlers at the base of the route after descending," Anderson said. The next day a rescue helicopter and a seven-person team of climbing rangers from Grand Teton National Park, led by Renny Jackson, began the recovery effort, which lasted six hours.

Powers and the Fremont County Sheriff's Office stated that the investigation into Absolon's death remains open. Informed by a third-party source, Powers reported that the hikers had no idea climbers were below them and were deeply anguished by the news of Absolon's death.

Absolon began climbing on the East Coast at Carderock, Maryland, then guided for a number of years at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. After traveling west, Absolon climbed extensively throughout Wyoming in Sinks Canyon, the Wind River Range and the Tetons. A former board member of the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), Absolon became a field instructor at NOLS, where his work ethic helped him move through the ranks to eventually become Director of the Rocky Mountain School.

Absolon is survived by his wife, Molly, and six-year old daughter, Avery. Friends and family of the Absolons are requested to post stories, reflections and condolences to a thread on SuperTopo.

Absolon's memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 19 at CWC/Sinks Canyon Center (SCC), just outside Lander, Wyoming. Guests are requested to bring a main dish, salad, dessert or flowers. Quotations and photographs can be emailed to jen_lamb@nols.edu, and will be displayed at the service.

A Memorial Fund has been established for Peter and Molly's 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 82520

Proceeds will be utilized to continue the tradition of adventure and exploration that Avery shared with her father.

Sources: Phil Powers, Dave Anderson, SuperTopo, NOLS Blog, AAC News and The Casper-Star Tribune



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