by Bruce A. Smith
The lethal beauty and power of Mount Rainier was once again on display this week as a recovery team of five climbing Rangers were able to seize advantage of the great weather and bring down the body of their fallen colleague, Nick Hall.
Hall, 32, had perished on June 21 during a rescue operation on the Emmons Glacier when four climbers from Texas were saved.
However, while Rangers were extracting Hall’s body on the north side of the Mountain, a skier lost his life in a bizarre, tragic accident just above the Paradise ranger station, in the Edith Creek region.
Here is the official NPS report:
“A team of five Mount Rainier climbing rangers and a search dog team were flown up to Ranger Hall’s location at about 11,000’ on the north side of Mount Rainier. The operation, including a preliminary reconnaissance flight went smoothly and was completed in approximately two hours.
“Air operations were supported by a Chinook and crew from the 214th Aviation out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord and a Hughes 530 from Northwest Helicopters.
“Rangers attempted to retrieve Ranger Hall the day of the original incident and again on June 28, but were forced to call off both missions due to high winds, deteriorating weather, and avalanche hazards.
“A memorial service honoring Ranger Hall was held last Friday. It was attended by an estimated 450 people, filling both floors of the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise. Many others watched the service via live streaming video at the Paradise Inn and at other locations across the park and country. Video coverage of the service can be viewed and download at the DVIDS, Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System, http://www.dvidshub.net/video/148209/memorial-ranger-nick-hall
“A family memorial service is being planned for this Friday, July 6 in Patten, Maine. Members of the Mount Rainier National Park staff, along with other National Park Service representatives will be in attendance.”
The park has also announced that the Sunrise area has been fully opened to the public now that the recovery of Nick Hall’s body is complete.
Tragically, a few hours after giving these statements, the NPS issued another announcement about the death of the skier at Paradise:
Visitor Fatality at Paradise on Mount Rainier
“On July 4, 2012, a visitor was intentionally sliding down a slope in a controlled manner with his son in the Edith Creek area of the Paradise meadows. While sliding he broke through a snow crust over the creek and fell below the surface of the snow. He was swept about 30-feet down the creek, underneath the snow. His son immediately went for assistance at Paradise.
“A Rainier Mountaineering Incorporated group training in the area responded, and was the first on the scene. However, they located the individual in the water with his face submerged. A complex rescue operation ensued, involving RMI guides and National Park Service rangers. After risk assessments were conducted, they were able to extract the man, and start CPR. An ALS air ambulance was called in to fly the man to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“Staff and RMI Guides successfully and safely executed a highly complex rescue that was time-critical and hazardous, with specific attention to managing risks to all rescuers throughout the entire operation.”
The Tacoma News Tribune is reporting that the deceased was Dave Watson, a man in his fifties. Watson was an English teacher at the Green River Community College, and was the father of four children.
For more information on these events, visit the Mount Rainier Park Website http://www.nps.gov/mora/ .
In addition, information about these events can be found at:
Special to the Mountain News-WA, 2012.