After Three Days Lost in Mount Rainier National Park, 66-year-old Snowshoer Walks Out and Goes Home

Sixty-six-year-old Yong Chun Kim survived three days and three nights in the backcountry of Mount Rainier National Park after becoming lost during a snowshoe outing. NPS photo.

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.

Comments

After the Uberuaga scandal and the tragedy that took Margaret Anderson, it's refreshing to hear good news from Mount Rainier. Three loud cheers for the staff and searchers!

Interestingly, two other snowshoers were also lost in the same area during the same period of time. They had not been reported missing yet, but had spent two nights in snow caves shivering and surviving on what they had in their day packs. They were located by searchers looking for Mr. Kim in the same drainage where Mr. Kim was later found. The search for Mr. Kim ended up being fortuatis for them and may have saved their lives as well... It was a very successful outcome for 3 people thanks to the efforts of Mountain Rescue units from Portland Mountain Rescue, Seattle Mountain Rescue, Tacoma Mountain Rescue, Olympic Mountain Rescue, Volcano Rescue Team, Central Washington Mountain Rescue, Everett Mountain Rescue, Mt. Rainier National Park Rescue Team, and others who donated their MLK to brave blizzard conditions and thigh deep snow to search miles of rugged mountain terrain to find these folks. It was a great day for everyone involved!

Indeed, a wonderful article. I'd follow Mr. Kim on a snowshoe trek any time!

I was one of the other two snowshoers who was lost in the same area as Mr. Kim. My boyfriend and I followed Mr. Kim and his group up the Golden Gate Trail area to the Skyline Ridge. We were with them when Mr. Kim fell off the ridge from the other side. We did not want to wait with them as they tried to make radio contact with Mr. Kim because the weather was quickly deteriorating and hiding our tracks back over to the ridge where we had ascended. We tried to find our way down but the blinding snow and poor visibility hindered our efforts. Long story short . . . we ended up staying in a snow cave on Saturday night; tried to find our way down to Fourth Crossing on Sunday, but again got lost due to poor visibility and not being able to read our GPS in the poor visibility. We ended up down in the Stevens Canyon area. I fell off an ice fall and lost a snow shoe 2/3 of the way down towards Stevens Creek. We found the Creek route out to Stevens Canyon Road impassable but had no choice to turn and come back up. The terrain was terrible and I was struggling with one snowshoe. We ended up building a snow cave on the steep slope half way up toward the bowl under Mazama Ridge. We spent another freezing cold night in a snowcave; got up the next morning (Monday) and gave it a "do or die" attempt to make it to the ridge, which we did under our own steam. Contrary to the statement above, we were spotted on the top of the ridge and not down in the Stevens Canyon area where Mr. Kim was found, although we have been told he was found about 1/4 mile from where we built our second night snow cave.
When we got to the top of the ridge (intersections of Skyline and Mazama) we saw the search parties looking for Mr. Kim. We were relieved to see them and have one of them guide us off the mountain. It is a miracle we are alive.
Please know that if it weren't for our preparedness, good health, determination, and survival skills, we would surely have perished. We are both 53 years old and I am a grandma!!!!!