• Mount Rainier peeks through clouds, viewed across subalpine wildflowers and glacial moraine.

    Mount Rainier

    National Park Washington

Upper Mountain Rescue and Recovery Operations Continue

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Date: June 22, 2012
Contact: Patti Wold, PIO, 360-569-6701

Consecutive rescue and recovery missions continue on the upper mountain this morning to extract the final climber involved in yesterday's incident and deceased Climbing Ranger Nick Hall.

A team of climbing rangers is walking down from 13,700 feet on the Emmons Glacier with the final climber from the group of four involved in yesterday's incident. Stacy Wren overnighted on the mountain with the climbing rangers after her climbing partners Stuart Smith, Ross Vandyke and Noelle Smith were airlifted off the mountain last night. The three are currently hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

A ground team is en route to Nick Hall's location. They are currently at Camp Schurman at 9,500'. The team's mission is to bring Nick down the mountain. They are encountering heavy precipitation and thickening clouds. It is unknown at this time if they will complete their mission today. Air operations are currently grounded by the unfavorable weather. Air operations are supported by a Chinook and crew from Joint Base Lewis McChord and an MD500 from Northwest Helicopters.

Mount Rainier climbing rangers are among the world's most experienced mountaineers with many spending their off season climbing the great peaks of the world.  The climbing program staff is comprised of over 20 individuals responsible for visitor and resource protection in the alpine regions of the mountain. In 2011, climbing staff collectively accrued over 3,000 training hours on skills such as search and rescue, aviation, avalanche safety and high angle rope rescue. The park conducts 30-40 major search and rescue operations in an average year. The park has had 395 fatalities since 1897 and 117 of those are climbing related. There have been five line of duty deaths in Mount Rainier National Park's history; 2012 Climbing Ranger Nick Hall fell during yesterday's rescue operation and Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was shot during a traffic stop; in 1995 two climbing rangers fell 1,200' during a rescue on the Emmons Glacier; and a maintenance worker died in a work-related incident in the 1950s.

The park Incident Command System team will be transitioning management of the incident with the National Park Service Intermountain Regional Incident Management Team.

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At approximate 12:00 pm on, Thursday, June 21, 2012, a party of four climbers from Waco, Texas fell at the 13,700 foot level of the Emmons Glacier as they were returning from a summit attempt on Mount Rainier. Two members of the party slid into a crevasse. A third member of the group was able to call for help using a cell phone. During the subsequent rescue, at 4:59 p.m., as the first of the climbers were being evacuated by helicopter, Mount Rainier climbing ranger Nick Hall fell, sliding more than 3,000 feet down the side of the mountain. He did not respond to attempts to contact him and was not moving. High winds and a rapidly lowering cloud ceiling made rescue efforts extremely difficult, but with the help of Chinook helicopters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, three of the original climbing party were lifted off the mountain by approximately 9:00 pm and taken to Madigan Hospital. The final member of the climbing party spent the night on the mountain with climbing rangers. All four suffered non-life threatening injuries, but were subsequently admitted from to the hospital and have not yet been released.

Climbing rangers reached Ranger Hall several hours after the incident began and subsequently determine him to be deceased.  Nick Hall, 33, is a 4-year veteran of Mount Rainier National Park's climbing program and a native of Patten, Maine. He was unmarried and has no children.

Sunrise, which had been scheduled to open for the season today, will remain closed while the incident is underway.

Did You Know?

Northwest face of Mount Rainier and Emmons Glacier as seen from Sunrise.

Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states at 35 square miles of snow and ice with Emmons Glacier being the largest by surface area with 4.3 square miles of ice. The Emmons is best viewed from Sunrise on the NE side of the mountain.