By Doug Esser Associated Press
SEATTLE — The National Park Service sent more rangers to Mount Rainier National Park to help recover the body of a colleague who fell to his death during a rescue operation, but it could be mid-week before anyone can reach the site, a spokeswoman said Monday.
At least 3 feet of snow has fallen since the accident Thursday that killed ranger Nick Hall, said Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Seattle who is helping at Rainier park headquarters at Ashford.
“All of the snow over the weekend has created more dangerous avalanche conditions at the site where Nick has come to rest,” she said.
The mountain, boldly visible on a clear day from Seattle 85 miles to the northwest, is a major attraction. About 10,000 people a year attempt to climb it, and about half make it. Extensive glaciers and sudden weather changes make it dangerous.
Two climbers and two campers disappeared on the mountain in January and remain missing.
Helicopters were standing by Monday to retrieve Hall’s body. But with a 60 percent chance of more snow, the probability of recovery was slim until a break in the weather expected Wednesday, Ashwell said.
“We very much look forward to being able to bring Nick back off the mountain, and we can only do that when the time and conditions are right,” Ashwell said. “Nick spent his life saving lives, and he wouldn’t want us to put anyone at risk to bring him off the mountain.”
Hall fell about 2,500 feet while helping rescue four climbers from Waco, Texas, after two of them fell into a crevasse at the 13,800-foot level of the mountain on Emmons glacier. Hall slid to 11,300 feet to a spot threatened by avalanches on steep terrain.
Other rangers who reached his body 40 minutes after his fall staked the location and took careful coordinates so it can be found again.
An Army helicopter at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and a commercial copter at Olympia were ready to fly when conditions allow.
Three rangers from Denali National Park in Alaska replaced rangers at Camp Schurman, at 9,500 feet, who were prepared to go to the scene. Two rangers from parks in Colorado helped with normal operations at Mount Rainier. All have previous experience on Mount Rainier, Ashwell said.
Three of the rescued Texas climbers remained in fair condition Monday at Madigan Army Medical Center, spokesman Jay Ebbeson said. The hospital would not identify them or specify their injuries. The park said they were battered and may have suffered broken bones in the accident.
The four climbers were roped together and on their way down from the summit of the 14,411-foot volcano, when two women fell into the crevasse. Two men were able to stop the fall and prevented them all from falling to the bottom.
The four people were identified by the park as Stuart Smith, Noelle Smith, Ross Vandyke and Stacy Wren. Three were rescued Thursday by helicopter. Rangers stayed with Wren and escorted her down by foot on Friday. She apparently did not require hospitalization.
Hall, 33, originally from Patten, Maine, was a four-year veteran of the park’s climbing ranger program. He was single with no children.
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 suspect in a Seattle shooting who drove through a tire-chain checkpoint. Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, was found dead the next day in the snow.
The last time a climbing ranger was killed was 1995, when two rangers died after falling 1,200 feet during another rescue on Emmons glacier.
Nick Hall’s family says donations in his name may be made to two funds:
Nick Hall Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 431
Patten, ME 04765
MORA Search and Rescue Fund
55210 238th Ave. E.
Ashford, WA, 98304