ASHFORD, Wash. – A chaplain at a memorial service for a Mount Rainier National Park ranger from Maine who fell to his death during a rescue operation on the mountain prayed for a break in the weather so the man’s body might be recovered and “bring this to an end.”
It was foggy Friday outside a visitors center at the Paradise ranger station, where family members and rangers in their flat-brimmed hats gathered for the private memorial service for Nick Hall, which also was streamed on the Internet.
Many have spent time on the mountain and are aware of its mystique and danger.
“Everyone who ties their boots in the parking lot knows the risk,” said Mike Neil, a chaplain with the Washington State Patrol and state Fish and Wildlife Department. But climbers take the risk because of the allure, and rangers like Hall are there when they need help.
“He was taken on the first day of summer in a manner that the people on this mountain understand,” Neil said.
Hall, 33, was a four-year climbing ranger originally from Patten, Maine. A former Marine, he previously worked with the Ski Patrol at Stevens Pass.
He died June 21 helping to save four climbers from Waco, Texas, after two of them fell into a crevasse. Three of the climbers spent a week at Madigan Army Medical Center before being released Thursday.
Hall slid 2,500 feet and landed at the 11,300-foot level. Clouds, snow and fog have prevented a helicopter from reaching the scene to recover his body. Avalanches threaten rangers who would approach on the ground.
Park officials said they would not take unacceptable risks to recover the body.
The recovery depends on the weather and could happen next week, said Park Service spokeswoman Nancy Stimson.
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said the service would learn from an investigation of the tragedy and “put into place whatever controls, training or equipment to prevent this from happening again.”
Several other people who spoke at the service recalled Hall was not a talker.
Rainier Superintendent Randy King said Hall guided him to the summit in a 2009 climb. Hall was “not much for chitchat,” but “he really did radiate a quiet inner strength,” King said.
Hall had the technical skills, experience, judgment, endurance, ability to connect with people, commitment to serve and courage, King said.
Hall’s brother Aaron Hall said they had planned to climb together in July. “Nick wasn’t a big talker, but he was a big doer,” Aaron Hall said.
He found his kind of people at Mount Rainier, Aaron Hall said.
“He was among people who were where he was in his heart,” Aaron Hall said. “He was among people with a kindred spirit.”
Hall’s father, Carter Hall, said his son made his parents and hometown proud. His voice cracked when he said his son answered the call on the mountain.