Lieutenant James Kneeland
September 22, 2020
Franconia, NH – On Sunday, September 20, 2020 just before 4:00 p.m., NH Fish and Game Conservation Officers were alerted to a climbing accident on Cannon Cliff in Franconia Notch State Park. Several 911 calls were made from the Moby Grape climbing route reporting that a climber had fallen after a large rock had dislodged and severed his climbing rope. Conservation Officers along with members of Pemi Valley Search and Rescue Team responded to the cliff, and a search ensued of 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 around 5:30 p.m., the climbers who were rappelling down the cliff located the body of the fallen climber and determined he was deceased. It was then decided that the recovery would be made in daylight early Monday morning. All efforts then turned to getting the searching climbers back to the top of the cliff prior to the onset of darkness and cooling overnight temperatures.
On Monday, September 21, 2020, NH State Park personnel were able to relay members of Mountain Rescue Service, Conservation Officers, and Pemi Valley Search and Rescue Team to the summit of Cannon Mountain. Mountain Rescue Service was able to lower members to the deceased climber’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 the climber down to the Cannon Mountain tram parking lot via the climbers’ descent trail. The entire rescue party arrived at the base at around 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. 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. The climber is identified as 34-year-old Benjamin Kessel of Somerville, Massachusetts.