On This Day: Hank Williams Jr. Has Near-Fatal Mountain Climbing Accident in 1975

by Clayton Edwards

If you picture Hank Williams Jr. there’s a good chance that image includes a beard and shades. That’s fair. After all, he has rocked that look for over forty years. In a way, it’s his trademark. However, it wasn’t just a fashion decision. He changed his appearance to cover up the scars he earned when he fell off of Ajax Peak in Montana back in 1975.

We almost lost Hank Williams Jr. forty-six years ago today. On August 8, 1975, Bocephus was hiking on Ajax Peak in Beaverhead County, Montana. As the country icon hiked along the mountain, the snow beneath him gave way. Hank Jr. fell nearly five hundred feet. The fall caused massive injuries to his head and face. In fact, the fall fractured Hank Jr.’s skull in several places. They were almost certain that he would die.

He didn’t though. He did, however, spend two years recovering from his injuries as well as the surgeries he endured to repair them.  

Hank Williams Jr. Talks About His Near-Fatal Fall

Hank Williams Jr. opened up about his fall in a 1976 interview. In that interview, he speaks frankly about the moments right after the fall.

First, the snow shifted under his feet and he fell down the mountain. On his way down, he hit a boulder and heard a “dull thud,” as his head made contact. He added that he didn’t feel any pain directly after the fall. He was in shock. Ever a musician, Hank looked at his hands before trying to assess any of the other damage.

“I looked at my hands first. I’ve been shot, cut up, and hurt before and I looked at my hands immediately. They were alright.” After making sure he could still pick a guitar, he started to take stock of the rest of the damage.

“The blood was coming out and I grabbed my face and there wasn’t any face there, hardly,” he recalled. At that moment, Hank Williams Jr. didn’t have a nose. “I had a great big hole from my nose up to my hairline, is what it amounted to,” he said. Then, he added, “I could put my fingers into my forehead.” At that point, the fear set in.

Hank Williams Jr. tried and failed to get up and walk away from where he laid. Then, Hank’s hiking partner made his way down to him. He set the remainder of Bocephus’ face in order and wrapped the singer’s head in his shirt. At that time, Williams said he had, “A left cheek, a left eye, and the left side of my face and that about all.”

His partner left his 11-year-old son there to keep Bocephus awake and talking while he went to get help. However, his face was wrapped. So, the boy never saw the extent of the damage.

They were over 100 miles from the nearest hospital that had the facilities to deal with Hank Jr.’s injuries. Luckily, a helicopter lifted him to a hospital in Missoula, Montana.