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Hiker Who Suffered Fatal Climbing Accident Was Retired Great Falls Doctor

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Date: August 25, 2009
Contact: Wade Muehlhof, 406-888-7895

WEST GLACIER, MONT. - Glacier National Park officials are learning more about the loss of a park visitor Saturday, August 22, 2009. Dr. William H. Labunetz, a 67-year-old retired neurologist from Great Falls, MT, had been hiking with four others and had climbed Iceberg Notch earlier in the day. Two of the party broke off, and the remaining three planned to use goat trails to climb down to Ptarmigan Tunnel, and then return to Many Glacier campground, where they were staying. Dr. Labunetz had climbed the Ahern Pass route before, and separated from the other two to take the route again. The other two, one of which was Labunetz’s 38 year-old-son, Chris Labunetz, chose a different route. Dr. Labunetz was down-climbing on Ahern Pass near Helen Lake east of the Continental Divide, north of the Many Glacier valley, when he fell some 300 feet around 2 p.m. Saturday.

A group of hikers, including a park employee, witnessed the fall. The employee made his way to the victim after sending the rest of the party to Granite Park Chalet to get help. While climbing to Labunetz, the employee spotted another park employee, and yelled to him for help. The two made their way to Labunetz and found he had suffered major injuries, and the fall had been fatal. The first employee stayed with the victim while the second employee hiked out. The second employee encountered the other two people who had been hiking with the victim. After being informed there had been an accident, they made their way to the Labunetz.

Saturday evening Labunetz, the other two hikers, and some park employees were transported from the scene of the accident by Minuteman Aviation of West Glacier, MT.


- NPS -

Did You Know?

Trees and mountains

In 1974, 93% of Glacier National Park was recommended as Wilderness. To this day, over 93% of Glacier’s backcountry is managed as Wilderness.