As the search for a missing 66-year-old snowshoer in the backcountry of Mount Rainier National Park moved into its third cold, snowy day, more than a few of those involved began to fear the worst. But in the end, they found Yong Chun Kim able to walk and in no immediate need of medical care.
Details of how Mr. Kim, of Tacoma, Washington, survived his ordeal have been unavailable. But his family describe his rescue as nothing short of miraculous.
“It’s a miracle that he is alive,” said Mr. Kim’s son, Malcom An, “but it’s an assisted miracle. I want to thank all the volunteers and the National Park Service staff who worked so hard to find my father.”
The search, which at times involved nearly 100 personnel, for Mr. Kim was launched Saturday afternoon after a slide down a steep slope separated him from his hiking group. Mr. Kim had been leading the 16 others on what was to be a day hike near Paradise. But when he couldn't manage to climb back up the slope, he told them to return to the Paradise Inn and he would circle around and meet them there.
When he didn't, a search was quickly mounted. The effort was halted about 9 p.m. Saturday night, when blizzard-like conditions were sweeping the mountain. Another long day elapsed Sunday with no success. On Monday afternoon, however, a three-member search team found Mr. Kim shortly after 1:30 p.m. Ironically, about the time the man was found two other snowshoers who had been lost in the same general area for two days walked out on their own, according to Mount Rainier spokeswoman Lee Taylor.
While park officials earlier had said the search for Mr. Kim hinged in part on a set of tracks in the area, those actually turned out to be from the other two snowshoers, the park spokeswoman said. Ms. Taylor didn't have any information on those two; however, she did say their experience should reinforce to others the need to leave word with friends or relatives when you head out into a park.
"No one had even known they were missing," she said.
The rescuers who found Mr. Kim were working through a grid search of the area when they came upon him at the upper end of Stevens Creek drainage, just east of Mazama Ridge in the Paradise area, Ms. Taylor said.
That was the general area where a New York man died on a hike earlier this winter.
It took until 11 p.m. Monday for crews to lead Mr. Kim out to safety. While it had been expected that he would be transported to a hospital for a checkup, Ms. Taylor said Mr. Kim simply left for home with his family.
"His condition is good enough that he does not require any immediate medical care!," she said late Monday.