Mount Rainier storm delays recovery of ranger's body

Eight Mount Rainier National Park rangers were spending the night on the Washington state peak as they waited out a ground blizzard to retrieve the body of a colleague killed while rescuing four injured climbers.

Climbing ranger Nick Hall, 33, died in a 2,600-foot slide that came as he was helping evacuate the Waco, Texas, climbers from a crevasse by helicopter.

He was several hundred feet from the mountain's 14,411-foot summit when he fell, and the park is investigating exactly how it happened to prevent the possibility of any similar accidents in the future, Bacher said.

"We're a very small team and particularly the climbing team -- basically 15 people under the climbing foreman," said Bacher, who also is a ranger. "And they work very close together and train close together and depend on each other for their lives and become very close."

The climbing rangers who stayed overnight Friday to recover Hall were staying at Camp Schurman at the 9,500-foot level and hoped for a break in the weather on Saturday, park spokeswoman Fawn Bauer said.

Three other climbers were plucked off the mountain by helicopter Thursday. The final climber, Stacy Wren, descended the mountain with rangers and was whisked from the area by car Friday evening.

The climbers had reached the summit and were on their way down, roped together, when two women fell into a crevasse on Emmons Glacier. Two men were able to stop the group, and one called for help by cellphone.

Rangers and the helicopter responded to the site at the 13,700-foot level. A helicopter airlifted the three to Madigan Army Medical Center at the military base near Tacoma, where they were hospitalized in fair condition Friday, said spokesman Jay Ebbeson.

The climbers were bruised with possible broken bones, park spokesman Kevin Bacher said earlier.

Park spokeswoman Patti Wold identified the climbers as Stuart Smith, Noelle Smith, Ross Vandyke and Wren.

Hall had helped put three climbers into the helicopter when he fell.

His family both grieved and celebrated his life Friday.

Hall, a four-year veteran of the park's climbing program, came from a family of EMTs who aided soldiers in Iraq and car crash victims in his small hometown of Patten, Maine. He was not married and had no children.

His father, Carter Hall, recalled his son as a loner when he was a child, but flourished in high school through a shared love of the wilderness.

"For good and bad, it was my influence of the outdoors," Hall told The Associated Press in a call from his Maine home, his voice breaking.

The last time a climbing ranger was killed was 1995, when two rangers died after falling 1,200 feet during a glacier rescue.

Hall's family said they were proud of his involvement in mountain rescues, and hoped that his death will draw attention to the profession's dangers.

Hall's father is a volunteer firefighter and EMT in Patten, and his older brother, Aaron, served in the National Guard as an EMT in Iraq. Aaron Hall celebrated his birthday on the day his brother died on the mountain.

Nick Hall had worked as an avalanche forecaster at Yellowstone National Park and as an emergency medical responder for the ski patrol at Washington's Stevens Pass Ski Area, his father said.

When he spoke to him about risks, Carter Hall said, his son responded that dying by heart attack "was also a risk in life."

About 10,000 climbers attempt to reach the summit of the volcano about 85 miles southeast of Seattle each year and about half make it, he said.