Missing snowshoer found alive on Mount Rainier

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 16, 2012 8:23 PM
Missing snowshoer found alive on Mount Rainier

By Laura L. Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A 66-year-old snowshoer missing for two nights in harsh conditions on Mount Rainier in Washington was found alive on Monday by members of a search party, a National Park Service official said.

Yong Chun Kim was leading a hiking club from Tacoma on a snowshoe outing near the 5,400-foot-high Paradise region of the mountain on Saturday afternoon when he slipped and fell down a steep incline, park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said.

Kim radioed his group to continue the hike, saying he would traverse the area where he fell, but rangers began the search about an hour after he failed to show up, Taylor said.

Kim, who has 10 years of experience as a snowshoer, was found alive by a team of three searchers midafternoon in a steep river valley called the Stevens Creek drainage.

He had no obvious injuries but was extremely cold, Taylor said, adding that he could have hypothermia.

"We have not yet gotten a detailed statement about how he stayed alive. Searchers right now are focused on keeping him warm and safe until he can be evacuated from the remote area where they found him," she said.

Kim was well-equipped for a day hike but not for overnight blizzard conditions, with icy winds whipping up to 50 miles per hour, temperatures at 10 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 30 inches of fresh snow falling in parts of the park on Saturday night.

The weather eased somewhat on Sunday, with calmer winds, "but we did get several inches of snow the second night," Taylor said.

Park rangers planned to haul Kim out overland, carrying him part of the way on a stretcher and transferring him to a motorized snow vehicle for the remainder of the trip.

Some 50 volunteer mountaineers and park rangers had joined the search, using snowshoes, skis and dogs.

Mount Rainier, which rises to a summit of 14,410 feet southeast of Seattle, is the tallest mountain in the Cascade range. The National Park Service describes Rainier's Paradise region as "the snowiest place on Earth," averaging more than 53 feet of snow per year.

The search for Kim was the second in Mount Rainier National Park in less than two weeks. A massive manhunt found the body of Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, drowned in a creek and frozen a day after he shot and killed park ranger Margaret Anderson on New Year's Day.

Another snowshoer went missing before the holidays in the same vicinity where Kim got lost and turned up dead, Taylor said.

(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)