Accomplished Washington mountaineer dies solo ascent of Dragontail Peak in Cascades


LEAVENWORTH, Wash. — An accomplished Washington mountaineer who has scaled the highest peaks on seven continents has died in a rock climbing accident on Dragontail Peak in the Cascade Range, the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

Dr. Richard Thurmer, 66, of Mukilteo, who worked for the Everett Clinic in Everett, Wash., had been solo climbing in the Enchantments southwest of Leavenworth.

He was a talented and experienced mountaineer who was featured in the (Everett) Daily Herald in 2017 in a story that began: “Rick Thurmer was only 12 years old when he added his name to the Mount Whitney Peaks Registry . He and his father completed the trek in one day, starting before sunrise and returning to the trailhead after dark.

His wife, Allie Thurmer, called 911 on March 28 to report that she had not heard from her husband for 24 hours. He was not expected to return until the next day, but he still remained in contact daily with an InReach device, according to the sheriff’s office. A deputy found his vehicle parked near Bridge Creek Campground along Icicle Creek Road and left a note hoping he would return in time. But he did not do it.

The Enchantments offer an assortment of climbing, and few peaks are as popular, known, or accessible as Dragontail. This time of year the mountain is still very wintry, with much of the approach covered in snow.

At approximately 11:15 a.m. on March 30, a crew aboard a search and rescue helicopter discovered a motionless body in the snow at the base of the Triple Corridor on the north face of Dragontail Peak – the side of the mountain visible from Colchuck Lake.

The helicopter was unable to land due to “very high winds” and the crew was forced to return to Wenatchee, according to the sheriff’s office. Around 2:30 p.m., a two-person ground crew arrived and confirmed the victim was Thurmer. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

It appeared that he had fallen hundreds of feet.

Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett confirmed the body was recovered by helicopter on March 31.

Thurmer was the father of three sons.

At the top of the toughest peaks, he says, “that’s where I feel most alive.”

“It’s the way he sees the world,” Allie Thurmer told the Herald in 2017.

Thurmer’s passion has taken him to France, Italy, Russia, Indonesia, Canada, Argentina, Nepal and Antarctica, as well as numerous summits in the United States and Canada.

He has climbed the highest mountains on every continent:

• Aconcagua, Argentina, 22,834 feet, February 11, 1974.

• Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, 19,341 feet, February 10, 2009.

• Mount Everest, Nepal, 29,028 feet, May 17, 2010.

• Mount Elbrus, Russia, 18,510 feet, August 21, 2012.

• Denali, Alaska 20,320 feet, June 15, 2014.

• Carstensz Pyramid, Indonesia, 16,024 feet, August 20, 2016.

• Mount Vinson, Antarctica, 16,050 feet, January 4, 2017.

— By Caleb Hutton, Everett Herald


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