LONGMIRE, Wash. (AP) — After two weeks of delays due to weather and avalanche danger, the body of a Mount Rainier National Park ranger who fell to his death during a rescue operation was recovered Thursday by helicopter.
The body of Nick Hall was flown to the Sunrise ranger station to be driven to the Pierce County medical examiner’s office in Tacoma, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said.
The recovery went smoothly in clear weather, Wold said.
Snow, clouds and avalanche danger prevented the recovery in the days after the June 21 accident. Officials didn’t want to unnecessarily risk the loss of another life in a recovery attempt in dangerous conditions.
A dog accompanied six rangers in an Army Chinook helicopter from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to help them find the body, which was covered with snow, Wold said.
Rangers who found Hall dead the day of his fall had already put the body on a litter. When it couldn’t be removed, it was anchored while everyone waited for clear skies to return to the coordinates on the Winthrop glacier, on the 11,300-foot level of the mountain.
While the weather was good, rangers also planned to use the helicopter Thursday to recover gear left during the initial rescue.
Hall fell 2,500 feet while helping rescue four climbers from Waco, Texas, after two of them fell into a crevasse on the Emmons glacier at the 13,800-foot level on their way down from the 14,411-foot summit.
The 33-year-old Hall was a four-year climbing ranger originally from Patten, Maine. The park held a memorial service June 29 for Hall at the Paradise ranger station. His family is holding a memorial service for Hall on Friday at the United Methodist Church in Patten.
Mount Rainier is about 60 miles southeast of Seattle where the volcano towers over the skyline on a clear day. The national park attracts 1.5 million visitors a year. About 10,000 climbers each year attempt to climb the mountain, and about half make it to the summit.
— Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.