Mount Rainier park rangers are warning it may take longer than usual to rescue stranded climbers.
The rangers suspended use of military Chinook helicopters after the fatal fall last year of ranger Nick Hall. The Park Service plans to start using smaller choppers for so-called “short haul” rescues, but they’re still waiting for final approval. Chuck Young is chief ranger at Mt. Rainier National Park.
Young: For the time being we are in this period where the tools we have available are not the tools we had a year and a half ago. We're hoping to get it back up to speed really quickly here.
Young says he expects the short-haul operations to be approved within the next few weeks. Until then, he says climbers should prepare for longer lag times for rescues. And he warns that under some conditions, no rescue may be possible at all. Besides the aircraft issues, the park service put new procedures in place following Nick Hall’s death. Rescuers must now anchor themselves to the mountain during almost any high-elevation rescue, and they need more support from supervisors.
Copyright 2013 Northwest News