The body of a Mount Rainier ranger who tumbled a half-mile down a glacier to his death Thursday may remain on the mountain for another three days as weather continues to hamper the recovery effort.
It is weighing heavily on climbing rangers that they havent been able to retrieve the body of colleague Nick Hall, 33, who slipped on the icy Emmons Glacier while helping four injured climbers from Texas into a rescue helicopter.
Its very frustrating. Wed like to make this happen for the employees and the family, Mount Rainier National Park spokesman Rick Jones said.
But conditions on the mountains northeast side have posed too great a risk for search and rescue members who are staying at Camp Schurman, waiting for a weather window.
The National Weather Service in Seattle says it does not track conditions on the northeast side of the mountain. However, it was cloudy with below freezing temperatures and sustained 30 mile per hour winds at Camp Muir, which is at 10,000 feet.
That is the same elevation where Halls body came to rest after sliding about 2,500 feet down the glacier and landing in a shallow crevasse.
On Sunday, helicopters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Olympia-based Northwest Helicopters remained on standby, waiting for a safe opportunity to fly. It never came.
Ground crews also chose not to proceed with retrieving Halls body after finding that the snow was unstable. Avalanche dangers were high and several feet of fresh powder fell Sunday.
Nick spent his career saving people and he would never want to risk other people getting him off the mountain in this state, National Park Service spokeswoman Jacqueline Ashwell said.
Todays forecast looks similar to Sundays. Jones said theyre more optimistic for a recovery effort to happen on Tuesday or Wednesday.
In the meantime, Halls body has been wrapped to protect it from the elements and is strapped to a litter. It is expected to be lifted out on a long cable below a helicopter and then taken to the Pierce County Medical Examiners Office. Park patrol vehicles will escort his body.
While rangers focus their attention on recovering Halls body and planning a memorial service, the four climbers Hall was trying to rescue continue their recovery.
Authorities said injuries to some of the four climbers remain serious. Three were flown to Madigan Army Medical Center on Thursday and were reported to be in stable condition.
The fourth member of the group, Stacy Wren, received only minor injuries and was able to walk off the mountain Friday, accompanied by rangers, since air rescue was no longer an option.
On Sunday, she sent a message to family and friends on Twitter.
Im alive! Made it off Rainier. Thanks be to God and all of the park rangers. Never been more thankful for the precious gift of life, she wrote.
Wren made it to the 14,411-foot summit Thursday with her climbing companions.
The trip leader was 52-year-old Stuart Smith, a Waco attorney and a world-class adventurer who has climbed the highest peaks on seven continents and gone to both the North and South poles.
The other group members have been identified as Nicole Smith, Stuart Smiths niece, and Ross VanDyke, assistant director of admissions counseling for Baylor University. Wren is a senior at Baylor.
The climbers, who were roped together, ran into trouble at the 13,700-foot level while descending from the summit. The two women fell into a crevasse. The men were able to stop the group, and one used a cellphone to call for help.
Hall, a ranger at Rainier for four years, was among those who came to the rescue.
Strong winds rocked the rescue helicopter as Hall helped three climbers inside. The gusts caused a second litter to swing as it was lowered from the chopper. Hall was guiding the litter down when he lost his balance and fell down the glacier with the litter.
Hall was dead by the time the helicopter flew to the spot where he landed and rangers rappelled to check on him.
Hall, originally from Maine, was not married and did not have children. He was a former Marine and worked on the Stevens Pass ski patrol from 2008-10.
Until Halls body is recovered, the Sunrise area of the park will remain closed because it is the closest spot to Halls body where a helicopter can land.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.