Mount Rainier storm delays recovery of Patten ranger’s body

Posted June 23, 2012, at 12:19 p.m.
Last modified June 23, 2012, at 5:48 p.m.
This undated photo provided by the National Park Service shows climbing ranger Nick Hall on Mount Rainier in Washington state. Hall, 33, was killed Thursday, June 21, 2012, as he was helping evacuate climbers from a crevasse near the summit of the 14,441-foot mountain.
National Park Service | AP
This undated photo provided by the National Park Service shows climbing ranger Nick Hall on Mount Rainier in Washington state. Hall, 33, was killed Thursday, June 21, 2012, as he was helping evacuate climbers from a crevasse near the summit of the 14,441-foot mountain.
The west entrance to Mount Rainier National Park is shown in this Jan. 1, 2012 file photo taken in Washington State. A Mount Rainier ranger slid more than 3,000 feet to his death Thursday, June 21, 2012 as he helped in efforts to rescue four injured climbers who fell on a glacier, a National Park Service spokesman said.
Ted S. Warren | AP
The west entrance to Mount Rainier National Park is shown in this Jan. 1, 2012 file photo taken in Washington State. A Mount Rainier ranger slid more than 3,000 feet to his death Thursday, June 21, 2012 as he helped in efforts to rescue four injured climbers who fell on a glacier, a National Park Service spokesman said.
Patten native and park ranger Nick Hall lost his life while taking part in a rescue effort on Mount Rainier in Washington on Thursday, June 21, 2012.
Courtesy photo
Patten native and park ranger Nick Hall lost his life while taking part in a rescue effort on Mount Rainier in Washington on Thursday, June 21, 2012.
A roadside tribute sign for park ranger Nick Hall, who lost his life while taking part in a rescue effort on Mount Rainier in Washington Thursday, June 21, 2012.
Kevin Bacher, Mount Rainier National Park | BDN
A roadside tribute sign for park ranger Nick Hall, who lost his life while taking part in a rescue effort on Mount Rainier in Washington Thursday, June 21, 2012.

SEATTLE — Whiteout conditions on Mount Rainier National Park prevented rangers on Saturday from recovering the body of a colleague who died while rescuing four injured climbers near the mountain’s peak.

Crews were hoping for a break in the weather but conditions got worse as the day progressed, said park spokeswoman Brandi Stewart. Crews said the forecast looked better for recovery on Sunday.

A team of four rangers who had begun climbing to the spot where Nick Hall slid 2,600 feet to his death turned back to Camp Schurman. The campsite is at the 9,500-foot level.

The rangers were going to assist with a planned recovery from a helicopter, which remained on standby until the weather allows flying conditions.

Hall died Thursday after helping four climbers from Texas who fell near the 14,411-foot mountain’s peak. The climbers had reached the summit and were on their way down, roped together, when two women fell into a crevasse on Emmons Glacier at the 13,700-foot level. Two men were able to stop the group, and one called for help by cellphone.

Hall had helped put three climbers into the helicopter when he fell. The final climber, Stacy Wren, descended the mountain with rangers Friday.

Park spokeswoman Patti Wold identified the climbers as Stuart Smith, Noelle Smith, Ross Vandyke and Wren.

The climbers were bruised with possible broken bones, park spokesman Kevin Bacher said earlier.

Park spokeswoman Patti Wold identified the climbers as Stuart Smith, Noelle Smith, Ross Vandyke and Wren.

Hall had helped put three of the climbers into the helicopter when he fell about 5 p.m. Thursday.

Nick Hall, a four-year veteran of the park’s climbing program, came from a family of EMTs. He served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, achieving the rank of sergeant, and worked for several rescue and EMT services before starting his duties at Mount Rainier National Park, his father said.

Carter Hall said his son was reserved but eventually flourished through a love of the outdoors and an aptitude for skiing he found while attending Katahdin High School. Nick Hall graduated in 1996, his father said.

Hall was never one to explain his motivations in great detail, his father said, except to wryly remark once that he liked climbing and EMT work because “It is better than dying of a heart attack at a desk.”

His family both grieved and celebrated his life Friday.

The Hall family is proud of Nick Hall’s work in mountain rescues, Carter Hall said, and glad to know that at least one of the rescued climbers is very experienced, having climbed seven of the world’s tallest peaks.

“We sincerely hope the loss of our son will draw appropriate attention to the hazards and safety requirements and commitment to be involved in the profession and sport he so loved,” Carter Hall said. “We know the rescued climbers were prepared and that’s what rescue is all about.”

An insurance agent, Carter Hall was a volunteer firefighter and EMT in Patten who now works for Downeast Emergency Medical Service. His older son, Aaron, served in the National Guard as an EMT in Iraq. Carter Hall also worked as an emergency responder in New Brunswick.

Aaron Hall celebrated his birthday Thursday before he heard of his brother’s death.

Nick Hall had previously worked as an avalanche forecaster at Yellowstone National Park and as an emergency medical responder for the ski patrol at Washington’s Stevens Pass Ski Area, his father said. Hall worked an eight-day schedule at Mount Rainier during this time of year, climbing season, his father said.

Hall served in the Carolinas, California and Japan while in the Marines and later studied mountain and recreational guidance at Western State College of Colorado. He graduated in 2006, his father said.

Having been told that Hall was “unresponsive” and couldn’t be reached by radio, family members had held out hope Thursday night that Hall might have survived his slide, Carter Hall said.

Word of Hall’s death spread quickly through Patten. Workers at the Patten Town Office said they heard of it Friday morning and expressed condolences.

Hall was the second Mount Rainier National Park ranger to die this year. Margaret Anderson was fatally shot on New Year’s Day as she tried to stop a man who drove through a tire-chain checkpoint at Longmire. Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, was suspected in a Seattle shooting earlier that day, and his body was found the next day in the snow.

Rescuers are still looking for four other people — two climbers and two campers — who disappeared on the mountain in a January storm. “We’re keeping our eyes out for them as the snow melts out,” Bacher said.

About 10,000 climbers attempt to reach the summit of the volcano about 85 miles southeast of Seattle each year and about half make it, he said.

BDN writer Nick Sambides Jr. contributed to this report

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