FRANCONIA — A Massachusetts man died Sunday while climbing Cannon Cliff in Franconia Notch State Park when a large rock broke loose and severed his climbing rope, causing him to fall 150 feet to the bottom of the cliff, conservation officers said.
About 4 p.m. Sunday, conservation officers with New Hampshire Fish and Game were notified of a climbing accident on Cannon Cliff in Franconia Notch State Park. Several 911 calls were made from the Moby Grape climbing route, reporting a climber had fallen.
Conservation officers and members of Pemi Valley Search and Rescue Team responded and searched the base of the cliff, while a member of the climber’s party and two nearby climbers descended the route the climber had fallen.
At about 5:30 p.m. the climbers who were rappelling down the cliff located the body of the fallen climber, identified as Benjamin Kessel, 34, of Somerville, Mass.
Officials determined the body would be recovered in the daylight hours early Monday morning. On Monday, state park personnel relayed members of Mountain Rescue Service, conservation officers and Pemi Valley Search and Rescue Team to the summit of Cannon Mountain.
Mountain Rescue Service members were lowered to Kessel’s location and by 10:30 a.m. they had hoisted the rescuers and climber back to the top of the cliff.
Rescuers then carried Kessel’s body down to the Cannon Mountain Tram Parking Lot via the climbers’ descent trail. The rescue party arrived at the base about 12:30 p.m.
“It was determined by rescuers, who had observed the area, that a rock the size of a refrigerator had dislodged as the climber approached from below,” said Fish and Game Lt. James Kneeland in a statement. “The rock then slid over the climbing rope, severing it and knocking the climber approximately 150 feet down the cliff before becoming lodged in some small spruce trees.”