No matter where in the wilderness Nick Hall was, his brother Aaron says he could always find him.
They would plan to meet in some area of Maine or Washington state, and when Aaron Hall arrived, he would invariably pick the right series of roads or choose the right fork in the path and there would be his brother, he said.
Nick Hall was “the only person on the Earth,” Aaron Hall said, “who would know what I was thinking and not have to say anything — which was convenient for him because he didn’t talk much.”
Aaron Hall told the crowd at a memorial service for his brother Friday at Mount Rainier National Park in Paradise, Wash., that though the lifetime of adventures they shared is over, “With a heavy heart I will keep exploring.”
“I know he’s going to be with me, but the world is just going to be a much lonelier place to be,” Aaron Hall said. “I will miss him, and I will miss him painfully.”
A Mount Rainier National Park ranger and a native of Patten, Maine, the 33-year Nick Hall fell 3,700 feet on June 21 — though some sources claim it was 2,500 feet — on the Emmons glacier after helping rescue four climbers from Waco, Texas. His body remains on the mountain; rangers hope to retrieve it Saturday.
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, Mount Rainier National Park Chief Ranger Chuck Young, Rainier Superintendent Randy King, Hall’s parents and other relatives were among those who attended the ceremony.
Hall was remembered as a taciturn, athletic man who had a consuming passion for the outdoors — mountain climbing, skiing, hiking, bicycling — since he was a boy in Patten. Aaron Hall remembered climbing a smaller Maine mountain when they were boys and seeing Nick Hall happily digging his fingers into the rocks and moss before walking the flat, rocky summit with an ease remarkable in someone so young.
Aaron Hall and other speakers said Nick Hall died doing work that he loved and was perfectly suited for. Nick Hall loved mountains deeply. His inherent ruggedness, maturity and sound judgment made him a calming and guiding influence in the physically demanding, technically challenging and always dangerous business of mountain rescue, they said.
Nick Hall also had an impish and wry quality. Aaron Hall recalled how years ago Nick turned a tall fireplace in their apartment “into a little climbing route.”
Another speaker, who identified herself to the crowd only as Erin, visited a favorite section of river that Nick Hall liked Friday and began to weep, thinking of the loss of Nick and its impact when she imagined Nick’s voice in her head.
“You know, you should be boating this section, not weeping over it,” the voice told her.
Life with his brother was “nothing but recreation and adventure, nothing but what he was doing here,” Aaron Hall said.
Aaron Hall, who lives in Maine, was surprised to see so many unshaven, unwashed Washingtonians around Mount Rainier with rough, gnarled hands driving rusty, beat-up vehicles piled high with sporting goods worth more than the vehicles themselves.
“There’s nothing but a bunch of Nicks around here,” Aaron Hall said.
His father, Carter Hall, spoke with pride of his son and noted the symmetry of Hall starting his life in the shadow of Mount Katahdin and ending it on Mount Rainier.
Jarvis promised that the park service would learn from Nick Hall’s death. The service, he said, is the country’s best preserver of the living history of this nation, the keeper of the memorials of Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, Korea and Flight 93. He promised that Nick Hall’s story and sacrifice will live forever as part of the history the service preserves.
Erin said Nick Hall “felt good with his life. He was at peace with himself. He was verbal about it.”
She imagined Nick Hall loved Mount Rainier and the outdoors so much that he would say to her, “I am OK. Just leave me here.”