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Rainier rangers honored for rescue of three climbers

Post by Craig Hill / The News Tribune on March 11, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
March 13, 2012 11:07 pm

UPDATE: Mount Rainier National Park released a statement March 13. It is included below.

It took nearly a decade, but two Mount Rainier National Park climbing rangers were presented Department of the Interior Valor Awards last week by department secretary Ken Salazar in Washington, D.C.

Paul Charlton and Glenn Kessler earned the honor for their part in rescuing three people on Mount Rainier’s upper slopes in June 2002. Charlton and Kessler rescued the injured people from a crevasse on the Ingraham Glacier, according to a DOI statement. During the rescue they found the empty camp of two climbers they’d seen the day before. Charlton and Kessler hiked and climbed in dangerous conditions to find both climbers had died after a fall.

DOI Valor Awards are presented to employees “who have demonstrated unusual courage involving a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger,” according to a statement released by the department.

Recipients received a certificate signed by Salazar and an engraved gold medal.

Statement released March 13 by Mount Rainier National Park:

Mount Rainier Superintendent Randy King is pleased to announce that
Supervisory Climbing Ranger Glenn Kessler and former Mount Rainier Seasonal
Climbing Ranger Paul Charlton have been honored as recipients of the
Department of Interior’s Valor Award.  The awards were presented by
Secretary of the Interior Salazar this week at a ceremony in Washington,
D.C.  This award is in recognition of the actions that Kessler and Charlton
took in rescues on Ingraham Glacier on June 6, 2002.

Here is the narrative of the award nomination:

On June 6, 2002, three individuals climbing the Ingraham Glacier on Mount
Rainier were
seriously injured after a wind gust blew them off their feet, and they slid
uncontrolled on hard icy
snow for 150 feet before falling another 60 feet into a crevasse.  National
Park Service Rangers
Paul Charlton and Glenn Kessler led a rescue team to the accident site, at
an elevation of 11,800
feet, where they directed and managed the extraction of the injured
climbers. This involved the
technical act of lowering personnel down a 60-foot narrow chasm of vertical
ice onto a snow
shelf where the climbers landed. The injured were then triaged and prepared
for a rope lift out of
the crevasse. After the crevasse extraction, they devised another rope
system to lower the
injured climbers hundreds of feet to a location where a helicopter could
safely extract them. Due
to their exceptional mountaineering abilities and skill, Rangers Charlton
and Kessler safely
managed this arduous and technically challenging rescue in subfreezing
temperatures, at high
altitude, and on treacherous and unforgiving terrain of ice and snow,
saving the lives of three
individuals.

While managing this rescue, Rangers Charlton and Kessler noticed that two
climbers
they encountered the previous day were missing from their camp tent, where
they should have
been, given their plan of summiting and returning to their tent the day
before. Rangers Charlton
and Kessler organized a search team and began a second ascent of the
Ingraham Glacier to check
the likely fall lines and crevasses in hopes of finding the climbers alive.
They called another
helicopter to assist in the search. Subsequently, the helicopter spotted
two individuals, down on
the slopes below a 100-foot ice cliff near an elevation of 12,400 feet on
the Ingraham
Glacier. With the helicopter unable to get a closer look at the climbers or
the location, Rangers
Charlton and Kessler navigated uncharted and broken glacial terrain of
steep ice and crevasses in
windy and subfreezing temperatures to get there.  Unfortunately, when they
finally arrived at the
base of the 100-foot ice cliff, they found the two climbers entangled in
rope and deceased after
an obvious fall. For their extraordinary courage and heroic efforts, under
extreme environmental
and physically challenging conditions, to rescue and save the lives of the
three injured climbers,
and to attempt to find and rescue the two missing climbers on Mount Rainier
on June 6, 2002,
Paul Charlton and Glenn Kessler are awarded the Valor Award for the
Department of the
Interior.

Chief Ranger Chuck Young stated “The work that park staff does day-to-day
is outstanding.  Their many accomplishments show great dedication, which
frequently go beyond the call of duty.  Every so often, the work they do is
truly extraordinary–this is one of those times.   We are proud to have had
both Glenn and Paul recognized for their work at the national level.”

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