Third mission to recover Bellingham climber’s body scrubbed

Susan Bennett of Bellingham is shown in an undated climbing trip.
Susan Bennett of Bellingham is shown in an undated climbing trip. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

After three failed attempts, North Cascades National Park officials postponed until next week a mission to recover the body of a well-known Bellingham mountaineer who died Saturday in a fall while descending Forbidden Peak, one of the region’s most spectacular and treacherous rock faces.

Susan Bennett, 61, was with a group of four climbers who reached the 8,816-foot summit on Saturday. They were rappelling on their descent from the difficult West Ridge when Bennett fell several hundred feet, park officials said.

A helicopter rescue crew located Bennett’s body Saturday in a 30-foot crevasse on Forbidden Glacier. Low clouds and gathering dusk prevented a recovery attempt Sunday, and a Monday mission was aborted by a “priority incident” on Mount Rainier, said Denise Shultz, public information officer for the North Cascades National Park.

A third recovery mission was scrubbed Tuesday, but Shultz didn’t know the exact reasons.

“I’m not sure why,” Shultz said Wednesday. “My guess is that they’re assessing the situation and trying to figure out the best way to move forward. They’ll try again, but not before next week.”

Forbidden Peak is east of Marblemount along Highway 20, off Cascade River Road, and can be seen by hikers from the Cascade Pass trail. The West Ridge is listed in the guide book “50 Classic Climbs in North America.”

Bennett was a dental hygienist at Galbraith Mountain Dentistry. She lived in Bellingham since 1978, after moving from Southern California, and had been married for 28 years, according to her biography at the dentist’s website.

She was well-known at the Whatcom Family YMCA, where she inspired and encouraged female climbers, taught classes and volunteered during the Y’s family-oriented climbing hours.

No information on services was immediately available.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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