Mount Rainier ranger killed in climbers' rescue

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Associated Press

Posted on June 22, 2012 at 2:00 AM

Updated Friday, Jun 22 at 3:02 AM

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.

Bacher says all four had injuries that were not life-threatening. The two rescued from the mountain were taken to a hospital. None was immediately identified.

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

Storms on Mount Rainier are notoriously fierce and obstinate.

"We were lucky to get two off the mountain," the spokesman said.

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.

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