SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – April 2001

Death On Montana's Granite Peak

High on a Montana mountain, the mystery of a long-lost climber continues to unravel for those willing to make the arduous trek and search for clues that literally lie at your feet.

by: Alan Kesselheim


Of the three possible matches, only Ernest Bruffey seems likely, according to Jenkins. The other two, Scott Robinson and Jeremy Moors, were swallowed up in mountainous terrain so far west of Granite that it would have required extraordinary circumstances for their bodies to reach the snowfield where Kampf found the boot. As we toiled toward Avalanche Lake, where we planned to set up basecamp, our rest breaks got longer. The culmination of the day's hike was a brutal, mile-long stint across boulders the size of cars. Each of us performed at least one little life-and-death jig along the way.

Late in the afternoon, after setting up camp, I stripped down for a frigid dip in Avalanche Lake, followed by the numbing soak my bruised feet had been crying for since lunch. Across the lake, rising 3,000 feet above, the dark north wall of Granite Peak blocked out the sky.

I slept outside that night, though fitfully, thinking about the upcoming climb and about Ernest Bruffey. The startling whitewash of moonlight kept me awake, listening to the bleating of mountain goats cruising camp in search of the salt licks of our pee spots. Every time I opened my eyes, the ghostly monolith of Granite Peak filled the night.

One of the most intriguing circumstances of Bruffey's disappearance is that on the day after he signed in atop Granite, the most destructive and powerful earthquake in Montana's recent history struck the southwestern corner of the state. The quake registered between 7 and 8 on the Richter scale and was felt hundreds of miles from its epicenter.

If Bruffey was still alive when the earthquake hit near midnight, he presumably was snug in his tent. Did a rockslide bury him as he slept? Did he already lie dead on the slope below Granite when fresh rockslides covered his remains? And if he was still exploring the high country the next day, could he have fallen victim to an aftershock or a crumbling face made unstable by the shifting Earth?

News stories at the time favored the buried-by-earthquake-caused-rockslides theory, and Sweet Grass County Sheriff Ken Thompson, a member of the search team, described the freshly disturbed debris near Granite Peak as "enormous."

At dawn, the sky was gauzy. We all awoke as if by telepathy and rummaged around in the chilly, dim light, eating our cold breakfasts and adding to the summit packs we'd prepared the night before. The day was still gray when we started.

Granite Peak wasn't successfully reached until the mid-1930s, and with good reason. The climb is best characterized as a series of "Should I attempt this next move?" decisions—decisions that accumulate and become an ominous weight as you confront each one and then move to the next, trying not to think about what you'll face coming back down. Even worse, the heart of the high Beartooths is a cauldron perfect for brewing storms. More than a few climbers have made four or five attempts to reach the peak, only to be stormed off each time.



Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike
Nov 29, 2013

Great story!

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

The Political Arena
Blood in the streets of DC
Posted On: Jul 31, 2014
Submitted By: double cabin
Trailhead Register
Mile, Mile and a half
Posted On: Jul 31, 2014
Submitted By: GoBlueHiker

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions