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Tacoma man missing on Rainier after falling during snowshoe hike

Post by Craig Hill / The News Tribune on Jan. 15, 2012 at 10:06 am with 10 Comments »
January 15, 2012 5:32 pm

UPDATE: At 4:47 p.m., as the sun sets searchers are making their way back to Paradise and all are expected to report in by 5 p.m. The search will continue Monday, said park spokeswoman Lee Taylor, and the road to Paradise will be closed above Longmire. Searchers spoke with backcountry campers who said they saw tracks leading down the Stevens Creek drainage, a common wrong way route for lost climbers and snowshoers. The drainage would lead to Stevens Canyon Road, which is closed for the winter.

UPDATE: At 3:33 p.m., the park distributed a statement from superintendent Randy King on why park roads will remain closed above Longmire tomorrow if the search is still in progress: “Time is of the essence in a search like this and we want to focus everything we’ve got on finding Yong Chun Kim.”

UPDATE: As of 2:15 p.m., the search for the missing Tacoma continues with number of searchers growing to 45. A team of German Shepherd dogs has been brought in to help, said park spokeswoman Lee Taylor. There is as much as 30 inches of fresh snow in some areas. If the search continues to tomorrow, the road from Longmire to Paradise will remain closed Monday.

 

A search is under way this morning at Mount Rainier National Park for a missing snowshoer.

Yong Chun Kim, 66, was leading a Tacoma hiking club on a snowshoe walk Saturday near Paradise when he slipped and fell down a steep slope, park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said.

“Part of the problem is because he was the trip leader and he was separated from the group they (group members) were not able to give a precise descriptions of the location” where Kim fell, Taylor said.

A member of the hiking party is trying to helped searchers find the exact place of the fall this morning, Taylor said. Taylor said descriptions sound as if the fall happened near the Skyline Trail above Paradise.

Kim, who is from Tacoma, was unable to climb back up the slope and said he would hike back to Paradise via a different route. When he had not returned by 3 p.m., the park launched a search that lasted until 9 p.m. Kim is an experienced snowshoer but does not have overnight camping gear or experience, Taylor said.

Kim was carrying a radio and last made contact with his hiking party at 2:30 p.m., Taylor said. Kim told them he was OK and on his way.

Weather conditions were severe at Paradise last night with winds gusting as high as 50 mph and blizzard conditions. The area received five inches of new snow overnight and harsh conditions are expected to continue today. The road from Longmire to Paradise is closed to the public today.

Twenty-five searchers are on the mountain today including members of the National Park Service and the Tacoma, Seattle and Everett Mountain Rescues.

Some of Kim’s family members and members of his hiking party are at Longmire today. The name of the hiking club remains uncertain.

On Dec. 13, a solo snowshoer from New York was found dead, apparently of hypothermia, near Paradise.

Leave a comment Comments → 10
  1. Its hard to believe that an experienced snowshoer would go out with the prediction of the harsh weather prediction.Myself I prefer the warm Lodge as my destination.Heres hoping he will turn up ok and well.

  2. You got that right, snow and wind, you can’t see and what you do see all looks the same.

  3. guidocarmasi says:

    Hind sight Well, as we all know by now, hindsight is twenty-twenty, but it is possible to turn your hindsight into foresight.

  4. ferryguy says:

    There’s no hindsight involved here. Poor to bad conditions were predicted as early as Friday afternoon. They should have stayed down near the visitor center.
    The other mistake this man made was letting the rest of the party take off without him. Even in the summer this is a pretty challenging trail in places. They should have stuck with him until they could all walk out together.
    I hope for the best but I fear for the worst. Mother Nature can be very unforgiving, especially on Rainier in the winter.

  5. First off, I really hope the best for this man. That being said, why does anyone go out in the wilderness without survival gear? I lived in Alaska for over 30 years and even a short ride on a snowmachine can turn tragic if you don’t carry some survival gear with you. With a folding shovel, a small tarp, and a candle he could have a survivable shelter. City folks should stay in the city.

  6. If anyone has contact with someone from the rescue teams, please tell them how grateful this man’s family is for their efforts. I wish them success, but most of all safety. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Also, thank you to Craig Hill for the updates.

  7. Ashford98304 says:

    50+ mph winds Saturday. 13 inches of new snow in the last 24 hours. So close the park tomorrow? To what, preserve tracks? Maybe a big public turnout could be advantageous. But any excuse, I guess.

  8. skippythedog says:

    They brought in thermal imaging/infra red to find the dirtbag last week… Why not for one of the good guys now? The decision to call off the search for the night will probably cost this man his life.

  9. Skippy, do you really believe for one second that the professional S&R people aren’t doing everything they can? If you have experience in S&R and the use of that IR equipment, turn off your computer and go help! Otherwise, be thankful for and support the brave people that risk their life to safe strangers.

  10. jayjayjon says:

    Here’s a story no one will probably ever hear: I was with my boyfriend on the Skyline Ridge on Saturday following the Korean group up from the Edith Creek drainage area. We were there when their leader, Mr. Kim, fell down the slope. The weather was worsening by the minute and my boyfriend and I tried to convince the group to get off the ridge before they fell like Mr. Kim. We decided to head back down to where we crested the ridge so we could descend back down into the valley. However, the severe conditions and poor visibility (we couldn’t even read our GPS) caught us on that ridge for the night. We had minimal emergency equipment but my boyfriend did bring a snow shovel so we were able to dig a snow cave and find shelter for the night. Without sleeping bags or a stove, we shook and shivered all night. At dawn, we set off to find our way back down off the mountain but visibility was still really bad. We overshot where the ridge forked out to the Mazama Ridge and ended up down in the Stevens Canyon area where we wandered around for hours in snow up to our thighs. We ended up descending the gorge to the Creek far below in the valley. I fell over an ice fall and lost one of my snowshoes. The river valley was impassable so we turned to climb out but the gorge was too steep. We tried another route but it was full of obstacles and avalanche potential. It was late, so we hunkered in for another night in a snow cave. We though we heard something in the night and blew our whistle and flashed my headlamp beacon but there was no reply. The next morning (Monday), my boyfriend and I trudged up the steepest slopes of snow I have ever encountered to get back up onto the Mazama Ridge. It was there that we spotted search and rescue volunteers looking for Mr. Kim. They were astonished to see us as they had no idea we were up there; and even more astonished that we had been able to survive two nights in the elements without sleeping bags or a stove. We are extremely lucky to be alive. We were later told that it appeared Mr. Kim had followed our tracks down into the Stevens Canyon area . . . he was later found a quarter of a mile from our second snow cave. I’m glad the three of us survived our ordeal as it could have been a lot worse. Yes, the weather conditions were not perfect when we left Paradise on Saturday morning but we had checked in, not once, but twice with the NPS ranger station to determine if our day hike was possible. We scaled back from a Camp Muir climb, to a Panorama Point climb, to a mere 1,000 ft climb above Paradise to the Mazama Ridge because of the conditions. As experienced climbers, we don’t tempt the mountain . . . we check before we go; we take adequate skills and equipment with us; and make wise decisions should Mothe Nature hurl a doozie at us . . . and that she did this past weekend. I am so happy to be alive and am thankful for all the help and support the search and rescue teams offered as they guided us down off the ridge back to Paradise. I would like to contact Mr. Kim one day in the near future to hear his story . . . it almost parallels the one my boyfriend and I have to share. If anyone can offer me that information, I would appreciate it. Thank you!

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