Monday, Jun 24, 2013
A year ago last Friday, Climbing Ranger Nick Hall died from a fall at Mount Rainier’s 13,800-foot level while conducting a rescue of four injured climbers on the Emmons-Winthrop Glacier.
Nick’s loss remains a huge void in the lives and work of his family, friends, and co-workers. The National Park Service will never forget his contributions. To mark the one year anniversary of his death, park staff conducted a flag lowering ceremony on June 20th, placed all flags at half mast for the day, and shared a moment of silence for their fallen colleague. That evening, an informal gathering of friends and co-workers came together for a potluck to remember Nick's life, his laughter, his wisdom, and his contributions.
As the flag was being lowered during the ceremony, participants could hear over the radio traffic from the park's newly contracted helicopter. The helicopter was in the park to be used in the park's new short haul program. Rangers, pilots, and helicopter managers are currently in training for short haul, as a result of the stand-down on use of military CH 47 hoist operations for mountain rescue that had been the go-to resource for rescue up until the falling death of Nick Hall.
Other improvements to the climbing program have been implemented in the past year to improve the safety of high risk operations on the mountain, including anchoring and snow travel protocols, increased levels of ICS training for staff, better supervisory oversight of seasonal staff on the mountain, and a dedicated park aviation manager.
Through the dedication of park climbing staff and their resolve never to experience another climbing ranger tragedy such as was experienced in 2012, along with the support of park, regional, and WASO staff, the park is moving forward in learning from the tragedy and reducing the risk to employees in this high risk environment.