A 66-year-old man missing since Saturday afternoon in snowbound Mount Rainier National Park somehow survived wintry conditions without a tent or sleeping bag, park officials said Monday shortly after he was found.
Since Yong Chun Kim, of Tacoma, Washington, disappeared Saturday during a snowshoe outing, the park has received snow off and on and overnight low temperatures have dipped into the teens.
"That’s what he’s been facing for three days," park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said Monday. "Basically in the clothes that he was wearing, and he somehow managed to survive."
Details of the man's condition were scant shortly after he was found, though the park spokeswoman said he was "in stable condition, he was conscious and alert when they reached him." She did not know if he had been able to light a fire for warmth.
"I, like others, I think will be interested to hear what he did do to seek shelter or stay warm while he was out," the spokeswoman said.
A three-member search team found Mr. Kim shortly after 1:30 p.m. Monday. 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, Ms. Taylor said.
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.
Ms. Taylor said it would likely take several hours for Mr. Kim to be hauled out of the backcountry and transported to a hospital for a checkup. Rescuers planned to 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, she said. This process was expected to take several hours and not conclude until after dark.
Mr. Kim was leading 16 members on a hiking club outing when he slipped down a steep slope Saturday. He was unable to ascend back to the group and told them he would go around and meet them, park officials said. His hiking companions returned to Paradise, and when Mr. Kim had not returned by 3 p.m., the NPS initiated a hasty search that continued until 9 p.m.
By Monday morning, more than 90 personnel from a range of organizations were looking for the man. During the search the weather has been wintry, with fresh snow each day, low temperatures in the teens, and high winds. While park officials said Mr. Kim was an experienced snowshoer and well-equipped for a day hike, they added that he was not prepared to be out overnight.
Organizations participating in the search include National Park Service staff from Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades national parks; Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol; German Shepherd Search Dogs; Volcanoes Rescue Team; and Mountain Rescue Units from Tacoma, Seattle, Olympic, Portland, and Central Washington.