A well-known Bitterroot Valley climber and outdoorsman died Saturday after falling about 1,000 feet down a steep, ice-covered slope.
Bryan Louis Kercher, 55, was with a group of climbers descending from Sugarloaf Peak southwest of Darby when temperatures dropped significantly, which caused the ice on the mountainside to harden, according to Ravalli County Sheriff/Coroner Steve Holton.
The winds increased and covered the trail with loose snow, which made climbing conditions severe.
Kercher slipped and began sliding down a steep slope before striking a large boulder. He sustained fatal injuries in the fall.
The climbing party used an InReach emergency beacon to summon emergency services.
Ravalli County Search and Rescue responded that evening, but due to conditions on the mountain, they did not reach the scene until morning. Two Bear Air and Search and Rescue volunteers retrieved the body.
“It was one of those freak things that happen,” Holton said. “It’s really sad.”
Holton and the Ravalli County Search and Rescue extend their condolences to Kercher’s family and friends. Holton also thanked the volunteers and Two Bear Air for their expertise and assistance in the recovery effort.