Posted: Jul 27, 2013 7:47 PM by Laura Wilson - MTN News
Four people, under different circumstances, have fallen to their deaths in Glacier National Park this summer.
In late June, 64-year old Charles Fred Huseman of Packwood, Washington, died from trauma sustained in a fall in the Rim Rock area, about a mile west of Logan Pass.
Cesar Flores, Jr. from Davie, Florida, died after falling in early July; authorities believe that he lost his balance near the edge of a cliff and fell nearly 1,000 feet. Rangers recovered his body on Apikuni Mountain in the northeast area of the park.
The body of Cody Johnson of Kalispell was found at Glacier National Park several days later; circumstances surrounding his death are still being investigated.
The most recent death happened on Thursday when a Glacier Park Incorporated employee fell at least 60 feet to his death.
"Glacier National Park rangers received a report that 21-year-old Matthew Needham had fell from Grinnell Point, which is in the Many Glacier area in the northeast of the park," park spokesperson Jennifer Lutman explained.
The incidents have prompted some questions about the information made available to hikers about the terrain and trails inside the park.
"A lot of people...aren't familiar with Montana - specifically Glacier National Park - the terrain, and what it's like...these particular areas were off trail. We don't recommend traveling off trail, but it is an acceptable form of recreation," Lutman said.
We spoke with park visitors who all told us that when it comes to hiking challenging terrain, you have to recognize your physical limits and the inherent risk that comes with venturing off trail.
"Always have a good topple map and a compass. Don't go further in the day than what you physically feel like you can - unless you really have to," Jason Pratt, who's visiting from Ohio, advised.
"Know what you're getting yourself into. Prepare yourself physically as much as you can. There's no amount of signage, railing, or fence that will replace common sense," added Brian Edwards from Virginia.
Park officials say they reinforce these safety measures for every employee and visitor who is entering the park.
"Each employee goes through a safety orientation provided by park rangers. We talk about hiking, especially hiking in bear country and hiking in terrain that is rocky, steep, and difficult to navigate. Some of the points we hit on is never hike alone, know what your abilities are, and never be afraid to back down if something is too hard," Lutman pointed out.
"The information they give you when you enter the park is very helpful. They tell you if the trail is hard or easy, and I've been impressed with the information we've gotten," Vanessa Edwards of Virginia told us.
No trails have been closed as a result of hiker deaths this summer, but park officials do encourage hikers to stay on the trails whenever possible.
Photo courtesy of Glacier NPS