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Bellingham climber’s body remains on North Cascades glacier

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

A Bellingham woman’s body will remain on a North Cascades glacier indefinitely, as a recovery team decided Monday that a mission to the site is too dangerous.

Well-known mountaineer Susan Bennett, 61, died July 22 in a fall while descending Forbidden Peak, one of the region’s most treacherous rock faces. A helicopter rescue crew located her body in a 30-foot crevasse on Forbidden Glacier, but could not reach her. Two other attempts were aborted.

Details of a memorial service were released Tuesday.

“It’s really at this point about the safety of the rescue personnel,” said Denise Shultz, chief of interpretation and education for the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. “It’s dependent on conditions on the ground.”

National Park personnel sent a helicopter with a team of climbing rangers trained in search and rescue to assess the site Monday, Shultz said.

“They were not able to do a removal,” she said. “They’re doing a limited continuous search. The area where she’s located is active with overhanging ice and snow.”

She said it could be weeks or months before a recovery effort is safe.

Meanwhile, Bennett’s husband Craig Convery said friends are welcome at a potluck memorial celebration from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 12 at American Legion Post No. 7, 1688 W. Bakerview Road.

“I would like to thank everyone from the park department for their efforts on the recovery and all Sue’s friends for making her life what it was,” Convery said in an email Tuesday.

On July 22, Bennett was with a group of four climbers who reached the 8,816-foot summit known for its spectacular view. They were rappelling from the difficult West Ridge when she fell several hundred feet.

Forbidden Peak is east of Marblemount along Highway 20, in the area of Cascade Pass. 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 active in the Bellingham Mountaineers group and 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.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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