SEATTLE (AP) — The family of a Mount Rainier National Park ranger who died while helping rescue four climbers both grieved and celebrated his life Friday, as authorities faced the grim task of recovering the body of one of their own.
Nick Hall, 33, slid more than 3,000 feet to his death Thursday as he was helping evacuate climbers from a crevasse by helicopter near the summit of the 14,411-foot mountain.
Hall, a four-year veteran of the park's climbing program, came from a family of EMTs who aided soldiers in Iraq and car crash victims in his small hometown of Patten, Maine. He was not married and had no children.
His father, Carter Hall, recalled his son as a loner when he was a child, but flourished in high school through a shared love of the wilderness.
"For good and bad, it was my influence of the outdoors," Hall told The Associated Press in a call from his Maine home, his voice breaking.
A Chinook helicopter from Joint Base Lewis-McChord removed three of the four climbers from Waco, Texas, and rangers stayed overnight with the fourth person. Poor weather complicated rescue and recovery efforts Friday, with snow falling above 10,000 feet, the level where Hall landed after the slide.
The remaining climber and four rangers started down the mountain Friday morning and should be able to walk out unaided, but park officials still hoped a helicopter would be able to pick up the woman climber and also recover Hall's body, park spokesman Kevin Bacher said.
The park withheld the names of the Texas climbers until their families were notified.
They had reached the summit and were on their way down, roped together, when two women fell into the crevasse on Emmons Glacier. Two men were able to stop the group, and one of them called for help by cellphone.
Rangers and the helicopter responded to the site at the 13,700-foot level. A helicopter airlifted the three to Madigan Army Medical Center at the military base near Tacoma, where they were hospitalized in fair condition Friday, said spokesman Jay Ebbeson. Darkness and worsening weather with 40 mph winds prevented rescue of the fourth climber.
All four were battered and bruised with possible broken bones, but none of the injuries seemed life-threatening, Bacher said.
Hall had helped put three of the climbers into the helicopter when he fell about 5 p.m. Thursday. The park is investigating exactly how he fell, Bacher said, and safety was stressed at the Friday morning briefing for rangers.
"We don't want what happened to Nick to happen again," he said. "There's no urgency today; nobody's life is at risk today. Let's take it slow and make sure nobody else is hurt.
"We're a very small team and particularly the climbing team — basically 15 people under the climbing foreman," said Bacher, who also is a ranger. "And they work very close together and train close together and depend on each other for their lives and become very close."
Hall's family said they were proud of his involvement in mountain rescues. Continued...