by Bruce A. Smith
Yong Chun Kim, the snowshoer missing for three days on Mount Rainier, has been found alive by search and rescue teams, park spokesperson Lee Taylor joyfully announced Monday afternoon at 2:15 pm.
Ms. Taylor said that a three-person search team led by Park Ranger Jordan Mammel located Mr. Kim at approximately 2 pm Monday afternoon in the upper regions of the Stevens Creek area.
“They found him alive and conscious,” Ms. Taylor reported. “It’s unbelievable.”
Taylor said the rescue team found Kim just east of Mazama Ridge in the Parardise area of Mount Rainier. Kim was reportedly conscious and alert, able to walk and appeared to be in stable condition.
She also said that the rescue team is staying with Mr. Kim until additional rescue personnel and equipment reach the site, which Taylor characterized as “remote.” Ms. Taylor did not say what types of further assistance Mr. Kim required, but she indicated that officials expect to take the remainder of the afternoon inserting the necessary resources and that Kim may not come off the Mountain until evening.
“It’ll probably be dark by the time he is down,” she said.
After making her initial announcement, Taylor gave media an update on the ongoing rescue – saying that back-up teams will travel the closed Stevens Canyon Road by Snowcat and then ascend the drainage to Mr. Kim on snowshoes. They will load him onto a litter and carry him back to the Snowcat, and this process will take several hours.
Mr. Kim has spent the previous two nights on the Mountain without any bivouac provisions such as a tent, sleeping bag or copious foodstuffs. Nevertheless, he is an experienced mountaineer and has reportedly spent many weekends on the Mountain for the past ten years.
Searchers reported Sunday that they had encountered backcountry campers who had seen Mr. Kim’s tracks in the Sevens Creek area, and that they had led back to the point where Mr. Kim had become separated from his group.
The Tacoma News Tribune is reporting that Mount Rainier patrol ranger Jordan Mammel was assisted by two volunteers from the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol, Pat Fleming and Everett Phillips.
Ms. Taylor also said that Kim’s family and supporters, gathered at Paradise, may be willing to speak to media in the near future.
“With this good news they may now be willing to discuss their ordeal,” said Taylor.
Taylor also seemed quite moved – as were others in the media – by Mr. Kim’s ability to survive three days on Mount Rainier in blizzard conditions. “It is truly unbelievable – after all this time, in weather like this.”
Finding Mr. Kim today is becoming more fortuitous as the weather forcasts are increasingly dire for the next few days. The Pierce County Alert System is forecasting a foot of new snow tonight through Tuesday in the Paradise-Mineral area, with another foot of snow coming in a second storm on Tuesday night and into Wednesday. Total accumulations are expected to reach two feet by Wednesday. At lower elevations, the PCAS says that we may see 6-14 inches from these storms as well.