An pervasive level of comfort among climbing rangers working in dangerous conditions on Mount Rainier might have been a factor in the death of Nick Hall almost a year ago.
That is was one of the findings issued by a National Park Service board of review convened after the June 21, 2012, death of the 33-year-old climbing ranger.
Hall was one of four rangers rescuing four climbers from Texas. Each ranger was assisting a different climber when an Army Reserve Chinook helicopter arrived over the scene to lower a litter.
According to a Park Service review, an unroped Hall walked across the glacier to retreive a line connected to the litter when he slipped and fell backwards. Without an ice axe or ice tool, Hall could not stop his slide with the crampons he was wearing on his feet and fell almost 2,400 feet down the Emmons Glacier.
“Nick Hall was on a steep, icy exposed glacier, not attached to an anchor and did not have an ice axe. He did not have what we call fall protection,” Chris Lehnertz, Pacific West regional director for the Park Service, said in a teleconference this morning.
Hall was likely comfortable with what he was doing in those conditions, Lehnertz added. It is a comfort level found throughout the park’s team of climbing rangers.
“There is a systemic concern that when we do things over and over, we become desensitized to the risks and dangers,” Lehnertz said.
Park superintendent Randy King said he often deferred to the expertise of staffers in the field.
“My deference to staff on fall protection didn’t work in this case. If we had that requirement in place, this accident migth not have happened. In the future, when it comes to fall protection, if you got it, use it,” King said.