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Nick Hall: Family says ranger loved the outdoors and loved Rainier

Post by Jeff Mayor / The News Tribune on June 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
June 27, 2012 2:05 pm

Their faith and understanding of Nick Hall’s passion for the outdoors is helping sustain his family as they deal with his death after falling during a rescue on the mountain.

“One of Nick’s goals was full-time, year-round outdoor recreation employment. Mount Rainier helped make that happen,” said Aaron Hall, the climbing ranger’s brother. “He loved this place. He felt comfortable here.”

Aaron Hall, left, and Carter Hall speak Wednesday at Mount Rainier National Park. (Peter Haley / Staff photographer)

Nick Hall, 33, died Thursday while attempting to rescue four climbers on the Emmons Glacier. He fell about 2,500 feet as he helped pulled one of four climbers out a crevasse. Hall’s body came to rest at 11,300 feet on the north side of Mount Rainier, in an area prone to
avalanches.

While weather conditions Wednesday allowed helicopters to fly for the first time since the accident, the risk of falling ice, snow and rock were preventing attempts to recover Hall’s body.

 “We’re worried about avalanche hazards,” said Rick Jones, spokesman for the incident command team in charge of the recovery effort. “It’s extremely frustrating.”

Snowstorms and high winds have prevented rangers or helicopters from reaching that location since the accident.

Climbing rangers based at Camp Schurman on the northeast face of the mountain have been assessing conditions at and above the location where Hall’s body came to a rest, said chief ranger Chuck Young.

If weather conditions allow, an attempt to recover the body will be made Thursday, although the forecast calls for worsening conditions.

In the meantime, a second National Park Service team should complete its preliminary investigation by week’s end, Young said. Investigators have talked with eyewitnesses and reviewed the climbing program’s safety procedures. The program was honored in 2009 for its safety record.

As for Nick Hall, Aaron Hall and his father, Carter, spoke about his passion and commitment to the outdoors with the media Wednesday morning at Longmire.

His brother’s love of the outdoors was sparked by a day on the slopes of a small ski area, Big Rock, near their home in Patten, Maine, Aaron Hall said.

“When we were kids, Nick wasn’t an athletic kid. Then one day my dad took us skiing,” Aaron Hall said. “Nick went skiing that day and he ever stopped.”

Nick plastered the wall of his bedroom poster of the Rocky Mountains and ski areas after that trip, his brother recalled.

“He also was a climber from that day.”

Those passions led Nick Hall to spots across the West, including working on the ski patrol at Stevens Pass. For the last four years, he has worked as a climbing ranger at the park.

Remembering past conversations, Aaron Hall said Nick never wavered from his desire to work in the outdoors, even when there were opportunities to make more money.

“Nick was a quiet outdoorsman. He aggressively pursued his passions,” Aaron Hall said. “He made a lot of sacrifices in his life to get to the mountains.”

In his brother’s eyes, Nick Hall lived a different version of the American dream. He wasn’t driven by big bank accounts and houses and the other accoutrements of the rich.

“He was about cutting straight to the spirit of what he wanted to accomplish in his life,” Aaron Hall said. “His empty pockets had a lot of wealth in them. He didn’t wait for retirement to enjoy his life. He was a happy, happy man.”

Aaron Hall admitted the last week has been emotional.

“Thursday I was so angry, I could have run through walls,” he said. “I was so frustrated that they couldn’t get Nick. But there’s no need for any other climbing ranger to be hurt in the incident.”

Anger gave way to contemplation when the family saw Mount Rainier for the first time before landing at Sea-Tac International Airport Monday and on the drive to the park Wednesday.

“It’s bittersweet, it’s beautifully painful,” Aaron Hall said. “There’s some deep, humbling moments to look at that mountain.”

In talking about his son, Carter Hall said, “The family grieves his loss of life and I want to state we have been sustained by the grace of God.”

He said there were two calls that fateful Thursday, one for the rescue of the climbers and one from a higher power.

Citing Revelations 3:20 from the Bible, Carter Hall said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in.

“Nick — our son, brother, brother-in-law – answered both of those calls,” he said.

“Reflecting as any father would, I think Little Nick, how did you get so big? We have been so proud of you. Yes, you are a hero.”

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