Chopper Gumbo and the Midlife Crisis
Copter Crash on Rainier Leads to Life Changes
September 2002
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Editor's Note: As if guiding on Mount Everest, Vinson Massif, Denali and Mount Rainier every year wasn't exciting enough, columnist and sponsored athlete Dave Hahn went and got himself in a helicopter crash on Mount Rainier. The chopper went down while taking Hahn and a park ranger to the scene of a climbing accident, and while harrowing, the crash did not prevent the men from effecting the rescue.

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Dave Hahn Column

Crash Area

I'm trying hard not to kill anything. Not bugs, not animals, not myself, but staying alive, and caring for life, can get tricky. It is almost clichè, when coming home from Everest and the land of Sherpas and karma, to integrate a little Buddhism into one's daily routine. My daily routine, post-Everest, consisted of swinging in my hammock in Taos, New Mexico, and sipping poorly constructed, yet effective, margaritas. You wouldn't think it would be too hard to affect a little "live and let live" attitude while so occupied. And yet, my resolve was tested, even there.

Spiders and crickets seemed to know of the new leaf I had turned over. They clearly saw the truce as an "open house" event, and so scampered freely about my adobe abode, as if they'd forgotten the bug-crunching ability of my oversized feet. I watched them warily and was tempted to rev up the old Dirt Devil, which has not undergone any sort of life-savoring conversion and can legally hoover the heck out of errant creepy crawlers (vacuum cleaners are karma-free). But I didn't, having come to the conclusion that life is good, no more killing.

"I'd actually started June 25th with little expectation that I'd need some serious karma to get through the day..."
At the end of my vacation, when I packed the car for a summer of mountain guiding, crossed the Rio Grande and left the Land of Enchantment, my conscience was squeaky clean. And must surely be why I didn't get crunched in a crashing helicopter on Mount Rainier just a few days later.

I'd actually started June 25th with little expectation that I'd need some serious karma to get through the day. I really just showed up at Rainier Mountaineering that morning to fill out my pre-season paperwork, and to beg for a raise. I don't remember that my views on the value of life ever even came up in my talk with the boss. I did try to tell Peter Whittaker what a big shot I'd become and how I'd love it if he found new ways to challenge my considerable skills. Peter welcomed me for my 17th year of guiding at RMI and shoved my paperwork in the same pile with that of about 70 other guides who'd recently given their own big-shot speeches. He promised to take my begging into consideration and he ushered me out of the office. I still had to fill out the form that allows the National Park Service to hire me, on-the-spot, to help in mountain rescues, and so I lingered in the outer office doing just that.

After a few minutes, I became aware that Peter had come out of his office and was looking over my shoulder. "A-ha," I thought, "he's mulled it all over and decided to elevate me to some high post with more money and minimal load-carrying duties." Instead, Pete suggested that I go ahead and sign that form I was working on. "The park just called and they are gearing up for a rescue on Liberty Ridge. Interested?"

Continued on PAGE 2 »

Dave Hahn, Columnist