YAKIMA, Washington – A 27-year-old climber who survived five days on with a broken ankle on a U.S. mountain told rescuers he ate centipedes and drank water from creeks as he tried to crawl to safety.
A dog from a search and rescue team located Derek Mamoyac of Philomath, Oregon, just below the 6,000-foot level on the west side of Mount Adams in southern Washington Friday afternoon.
He was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Portland, Oregon, where he was listed in fair condition. In addition to his ankle injury, he was dehydrated and had swollen legs.
Family members who spoke with him briefly by phone said he sounded well.
"It's like waking up from a horrible dream," said his sister, Sophia Mamoyac.
Mamoyac started up the 12,277-foot mountain Sunday for a one-day climb. Family members reported him missing Monday when he failed to show up for work.
Jill Bartlett and other rescuers spoke glowingly of Mamoyac after he was found alive after five frigid days and nights on the mountain.
"He was in very good shape for what he went through," she told The Oregonian.
As she and several other rescuers waited with him before he was flown from the mountain, he told them he ate centipedes and other bugs after running out of food early in the week. He drank water from creeks.
He was wearing water-resistant pants, insulated boots and gloves but was still very cold.
"We put all our coats on him, and he was still shivering," Bartlett said. "We asked him, 'Are you warm? and he said 'yeah.' "
Mamoyac was found by the team of Greg Varney with his search dog, Trulee, a golden retriever, and navigator, Ron Buermann, who kept them on course.
Mamoyac told rescuers that his climbing trip turned bad as he was descending after reaching Piker's Peak at 11,657 feet below the mountain's summit. He stepped in some snow he thought was solid, but it gave way.
Bartlett said the climber broke his right ankle tumbling down the mountain.
He spent nearly four days crawling and dragging his feet through the snow, trying to drag himself off the mountain.
When his knees hurt too much to crawl, he said he would turn around and scoot backward.
"We get happy endings, but not at the end of a five-day search," rescuer Varney said.