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Nick Hall: Complete memorial service story

Post by Jeff Mayor / The News Tribune on June 30, 2012 at 9:11 am |
June 30, 2012 9:11 am

There were some technical problems and today’s story did not continue on the back page as stated, but on Page A4 instead.

Here is the complete story:

By Jeffrey P. Mayor
Staff writer

The verbal portrait painted during a memorial service Friday portrayed
fallen climbing ranger Nick Hall as a man whose quiet demeanor
reflected strength not weakness, a ranger whose skills and judgment
were without question and whose familial bonds were woven with faith
and love.

“It was special to have folks share what Nick means to them,” Aaron
Hall, the ranger’s brother, said after the ceremony at Mount Rainier
National Park. “To hear things like that is very powerful. We know
Nick’s memory won’t disappear.”

More than 250 people gathered at the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor
Center at Paradise to honor Hall, who died June 21 while helping
rescue four climbers who had fallen into a crevasse. During the rescue
on the Emmons Glacier, Hall slipped and fell 2,500 feet.

Attempts to recover his body have been thwarted by bad weather and
unsafe conditions on Mount Rainier.

In a ceremony that blended a military-style formality with the
informal remembrances from family and friends, Hall was remembered for
his passion for the outdoors, his quiet intensity and his remarkable
climbing and rescue skills.

Typically the hub for summer activities at Paradise, for a few hours
Friday the visitor center was transformed into a tribute to Hall. The
dais was flanked by tables holding photos of Hall, as well as a felt
ranger hat, plaque and guidon – all presented later to the family. A
National Park Service and Mountain Rescue Association honor guard
presented the colors.

Hall’s strengths, commitment to his profession and his willingness to
aid those in trouble make Hill a hero, said National Park Service
Director Jon Jarvis, also a former Mount Rainier superintendent.

He said Hall and Margaret Anderson, a Mount Rainier law enforcement
ranger shot and killed on Jan. 1 are heroes just like those men and
women the Park Service honors at place such as the Flight 93 and Pearl
Harbor memorials.

“The national parks are the collective memory of this country,” Jarvis
said. “We make the commitment to never let America forget, never let
them forget the sacrifices (Hall and Anderson) made.”

Carter Hall, the father of the 33-year-old ranger, said the past week
has been experience he had never before contemplated watching his two
sons fuel their passion for the outdoors in the north woods of their
native Maine.

“Nick, my son, you have done your parents and your hometown proud.
Your friendships are deep, your friendships are true,” he said. “Today
we are here and struggle, we have lost you too soon.”

Hall reflected so many of the characteristics needed to be a good
ranger, said Chuck Young, the parks’ chief ranger. They include his
joy of being outdoors and willingness to face the problem-solving
challenges that come up during rescue attempts.

“His legacy will live on in the rangers that follow his footsteps,” Young said.

There is little doubt of that, said Stefan Lofgren, the park’s
climbing program manager. Although he was Hall’s boss, Lofgren said
after the service he learned from the man he hired four seasons ago.

“I learned that I don’t have to talk and convince anybody I’m
competent,” Lofgren said between hugs from people offering
condolences. “Your competence is not expressed in talking about it. It
shows in what you do.”

Randy King, park superintendent, talked of how Hall was among the
climbing ranger who helped his group reach the 14,411-foot summit
several years ago.

“Nick died doing what he was trained and prepared to do, working to
help other people in difficult and treacherous conditions,” he said.

Erin Schwartz knew Hall for 10 years, first on the ski patrol at North
Star resort at Lake Tahoe and then at Stevens Pass in the North
Cascades.

“Nick was intentional,” she said. “He made certain lifestyle choices
that we all did. But Nick did it with intention.

“Nick was always telling me to get over it. This, I’ll never get over
it. That’s why I’ll always have my rock,” she said, holding a
heart-shaped rock she likes to collect.

During the service, Aaron Hall told the story of the first time he and
his brother, as young boys, climbed a mountain not far from their home
in Patten, Maine.

“When we got below the peak and saw the scramble up, that was when
Nick stopped being bored. It was something inherent in him to go
climbing,” Aaron Hall said.

He continued, recalling living together in Colorado after Nick Hall
spent six years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“It was like being kids again,” Aaron Hall said. “Once we moved to
Colorado Nick spent 10 straight years of climbing, skiing, biking. Who
does that? Except these climbing rangers right here.”

Walking around the gateway community of Ashford earlier this week,
Aaron Hall said he saw so many people who reflected his younger
brother. They sported ragged beards, drove rusting vehicles packed
with recreation gear and headed to the mountains whenever possible.

“Walking out of the general store, I said there’s nothing but a bunch
of Nicks walking around here. He belonged here. They were kindred
spirits.”

Afterwards, as participants headed down the mountain to Longmire for a
private reception, they had to be reminded that life on the mountain
goes on. Crews from the Washington Trails Association and Student
Conservation Association were working on trails. A visitor stood atop
a rock wall to get the right angle for a photo of Christine Falls. A
couple lunched at a picnic table at Narada Falls.

It was a fact Aaron Hall recognized, but admitted will not be easy to accept.

“With a heavy heart, I will be climbing mountains again. I know he’ll
be with me. I will miss him, I’ll miss him deeply.”

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