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MISSOULA, Mont. - Ravalli County Sheriff-Coroner Steve Holton said Ravalli County Search and Rescue and the Sheriff's Office responded to a fatal climbing accident near Sugarloaf Peak over the weekend.  

During the afternoon of May 8, a group of climbers were descending the mountain when temperatures dropped significantly, causing the ice to harden.
 
Winds increased covering the trail with loose soft snow and making climbing conditions severe. Bryan Louis Kercher, 55, slipped, causing him to slide approximately 1,000 feet down a steep slope before striking a large boulder and sustaining fatal injuries.  
 
The climbing party used an InReach emergency beacon to summon emergency services.
 
Ravalli County Search and Rescue responded that evening, but because of the conditions and darkness were not able to reach the scene until the following morning. The victim was recovered on May 9 with the assistance of a Two Bear Air helicopter and Search and Rescue volunteers.  
 
Ravalli County SAR and the RCSO extend their condolences to Kercher's family and friends during this tragic time.
 
Sheriff Holton also thanked Two Bear Air and the volunteers of Search and Rescue for their expertise and assistance in the recovery.
 
RCSAR and the RCSO encourage everyone to be aware of and plan for rapidly changing weather and dangerous conditions as people start to recreate in the mountains this spring. You are also advised to carry an emergency beacon to summon help, as the climbers in this situation were able to. 

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