Thrown rock caused climbing death |

Thrown rock caused climbing death

Matt Gruver
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

CHEYENNE, Wyo. ” A 15- to 20-pound rock that killed the Rocky Mountain regional director of the National Outdoor Leadership School as he was climbing near Lander last weekend was thrown by a 23-year-old Wyoming man, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Fremont County Attorney Ed Newell said he would speak with relatives and friends of the victim, Pete Absolon, before deciding whether to file charges.

Newell declined to identify the rock thrower. But he said that judging from a sheriff’s investigation, the man hadn’t known that people were climbing below him.

“Apparently there were several individuals above the folks that were climbing that were unaware of the climbers below,” he said. “It appears that there wasn’t any deliberate attempt to strike the climbers with a rock or anything of that nature.”

He said a report he received from the sheriff’s office Tuesday afternoon said the man who threw the rock was “remorseful” and fully cooperative.

“It’s just a sad thing both for Mr. Absolon and the individual who threw the rock, and their family,” he said.

Absolon was climbing with a companion Saturday in the Leg Lake area of the Wind River Range west of Lander. The man who threw the rock was hiking above the climbers.

The rock struck Absolon in the head, shattering his helmet and killing him instantly. County Coroner Ed McAuslan said Absolon’s climbing partner was unable to lower Absolon’s body. A team removed Absolon’s body Sunday using a helicopter.

Absolon, 47, had been the Rocky Mountain director of NOLS since May. The school offers training in outdoor activities and survival and has 14 branches worldwide.

The Rocky Mountain branch, based in Lander, is NOLS’ largest branch.

Absolon began working at the school as an instructor in 1990. He is survived by his wife, Molly, and a young daughter.

Newell said that while he would consult with family and friends before deciding whether to file charges, he would be the person to decide whether charges will be filed.

“At this juncture, we don’t know what, if anything, might be done about it,” he said.