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Rock Climber Dies After Rockfall Cuts Rope

Ben Kessel was climbing Moby Grape on Cannon Cliff when the rockfall took place

A man died in a rock climbing accident last Sunday in New Hampshire after a large rock cut his rope. Ben Kessel, 34, of Sommerville, Mass., was climbing Moby Grape on Cannon Cliff when the accident occurred.

According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, witnesses called 911 around 4 p.m. to report a climber had fallen after a rock became dislodged and cut his climbing rope. Search and rescue workers began searching the base of the cliff as climbers descended from the point Kessel fell and found his body at 5:30 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,” New Hampshire Fish and Game said. “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.”

Moby Grape is a classic seven-pitch 5.8 with some loose rock that gets a lot of traffic.

In 2007, an accident took place on the first pitch when a ledge the lead climber was on broke away resulting in a serious injury; read about it in the American Alpine Journal here.

Kessel was an experienced climber, family and freinds said.

Kessel was a part of the MIT Outing Club, where another member said “he mentored and adventured with many” and that “he had a quiet and genuine kindness, a lot of enthusiasm for teaching, and a great sense of humor. He will be very deeply missed.”

“He was very meticulous about his safety,” said Beverly Rich, Kessel’s aunt, told The Boston Globe. “He had the best equipment, and he was always very, very careful. Unfortunately, there’s nothing he could have done to prevent what happened.”