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Climber who died in slide was a hero, friends say

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) -- A Colorado college student refused to let go of the climbing rope that secured his friend despite a massive rockslide that crashed down over him.

The body of Peter J. Terbush, 22, of Gunnison, Colo., was recovered Monday. Yosemite National Park officials said the student from Western State College died of head injuries.Terbush was at the base of the granite face of Glacier Point on Sunday, holding a rope that 20-year-old Kerry Pyle was using to ascend. Fellow climber Joe Kerwin, 21, stood beside Terbush.

Then the rocks began tumbling off the mountain. "I saw enormous Volkswagen-sized boulders coming down, and I just prayed we wouldn't be hit," Pyle said.

Kerwin jumped out of the way, but Terbush held tight to the rope connecting his friend. He was still grasping it when the dust cleared and his body was found, Pyle said.

"If he had run, he probably would have ripped me off the rock and killed me," Pyle said. "He's definitely a hero."

Terbush's friends say he was an experienced third-generation climber who began rock climbing at age 11 with his father.

After spending several weeks with his friends at Yosemite, Terbush planned to visit his parents in South Africa. The group was on its final climb of the trip when the slide occurred.

"It was like a huge rumbling sound, like a jet coming close," said Abbie Kealey, 43, who was atop Glacier Point when the mountain face collapsed. "We looked over, and we saw a tiny plume of impact that rose up like a nuclear blast."

About 1,300 guests and employees in 300 cabins were evacuated from Curry Village, then allowed to return several hours after the slide. Pyle, Kerwin and a third person who tried to help suffered only minor injuries.

A U.S. Geological Survey geologist was to examine the area Tuesday.