Mount Rainier park official: Snowshoer found alive
January 16, 2012
SEATTLE (AP) – A 66-year-old snowshoer who was missing on Mount Rainier since Saturday was found alive Monday afternoon by a team of three rescuers, a national park spokeswoman said.
Yong Chun Kim, of Tacoma, Wash., was alert and conscious, and was cold but otherwise in stable condition, park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said. Rescuers were working to bring in a Sno-Cat snow vehicle to carry him out because weather conditions prevented a helicopter from landing in the area, she said.
“As soon as we heard he was alive, my sister, his wife, praised God and said ‘Hallelujah’,” Kim’s sister-in-law, Sang Soon Tomyn told The Associated Press after learning from relatives that Kim had been found. “We were so worried. We prayed every day.”
She said her brother-in-law was a strong hiker, had food in his backpack and knew the area very well, so they prayed he would be all right.
“He’s a very strong person,” she said.
Kim was leading a group on a snowshoe hike on the mountain when he slid down a slope and became separated from his party. He radioed to the group twice to say he was OK. But when he failed to meet up with them in the parking lot, a search was launched Saturday afternoon.
Teams of park rangers, search dogs and volunteers had been combing a snowy area of Mount Rainier for the third straight day on Monday. Rescuers found him in the upper Stevens Creek basin, Taylor said. Weather conditions prevented a helicopter from joining the search.
Kim, who has been snowshoeing for a decade, was well equipped for a day of snowshoeing but did not have overnight gear. Temperatures dropped into the teens and eight inches of new snow fell in some areas since Saturday, with more snow forecasted in coming days. With winds whipping on the mountain, some areas saw as much as 30 inches of snow.
Kim was leading a group of 16 members of a hiking club on a snowshoe hike in the Paradise area, a popular high-elevation destination on the mountain’s southwest flank, about a 100-mile drive south from Seattle.
He was still in contact with other members of his hiking club after his slide but decided not to try to climb back up the slope. “He yelled or gestured he would hook back up” farther down the trail, Taylor said.
“He radioed twice and said he was on his way in,” she said.
Because Kim was the leader of his group, other members of his group weren’t initially able to accurately describe where he had slipped, Taylor said.
It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that a member of the group was able to better pinpoint where Kim had fallen. Searchers had initially believed Kim fell in a different area, based on initial descriptions from the group, Taylor said.
“We’re so thankful for the community and for everyone who was willing to volunteer” to help find him,” Tomyn said. “It’s dangerous rescue work. But we really appreciate it.”