Park ranger dies during Mount Rainier rescue attempt

Park ranger dies during Mount Rainier rescue attempt »Play Video
Ranger Nick Hall

LONGMIRE, Wash. (AP) - A Mount Rainier ranger slid more than 3,000 feet to his death on Thursday as he helped in efforts to rescue four injured climbers who fell on a glacier, a National Park spokesman said.

Ranger Nick Hall was helping to prepare the climbers to be taken off the 14,411-foot Cascade Range peak when he fell before shortly before 5 p.m., said Mount Rainier National Park spokesman Kevin Bacher.

Bacher said Hall, 34, didn't respond to attempts to contact him and was not moving, and he was dead when other rangers reached him at the 10,000-foot level several hours later.

Park officials notified relatives and other rangers before announcing Hall's death late Thursday.

A Chinook helicopter from Joint Base Lewis-McChord plucked three of the injured climbers off the mountain Thursday night while one member of the party from Waco, Texas, remained overnight, waiting out a worsening storm in the company of park rangers.

Friday morning, KATU Meteorologist Rhonda Shelby said conditions around the mountain are expected to deteriorate, including snow moving in above the 9,000 foot level.

Bacher says all four had injuries that were not life-threatening. The three rescued from the mountain were taken to a hospital. None was immediately identified but their ages ranged from 18 to 53 years old.

Worsening visibility and 40 mph winds kept rescuers from removing the other climber late Thursday.

Storms on Mount Rainier are notoriously fierce and obstinate.

About 10,000 people attempt to summit the massive volcano each year, with most doing so in the summer. Only a few hundred climb the iconic mountain in the winter.

The Texas climbers were roped together when they fell on Emmons Glacier. The two women at the end of the rope ended up in a crevasse. Rangers who responded to a cell phone call helped them out of the crevasse.

Hall is originally from Patten, Maine, the park spokesman said. The Seattle Times reports Hall had been with Mount Rainier National Park's climbing program for four years.

His death comes during what has already proven a difficult year for park staff. On New Year's Day, Mount Rainier Ranger Margaret Anderson was fatally shot as she tried to stop a man who drove through a tire chain checkpoint near Longmire.

The 24-year-old man, Benjamin Colton Barnes, was suspected in a shooting early New Year's Day in Seattle, and his body was found the next day about a mile away in the snow.

There have been two other recent Cascade Mountain climbing accidents within about a week.

Last week Mark Cartier fell 1,000 feet on Mount Hood and died. And on Thursday, 52-year-old Gary Morgan was climbing on Mount Hood and apparently slipped and fell. He slid about 400 or 500 feet. He was rescued and is in serious condition at a Portland hospital.

KATU.com Staff contributed to this report.