Published November 13, 2012
SEATTLE – Searchers on Tuesday reached a pair of snowboarders who had been stranded on Mount Rainier for two nights in fresh snow that was chest-deep in places and so soft that rescuers had to "swim" through it, national park officials said.
Derek Tyndall and Thomas Dale didn't appear to have frostbite or other injuries when rescuers reached them around 11 a.m., spokeswoman Lee Snook said.
The two had been stuck on the 14,410-foot mountain since Sunday after getting lost in whiteout conditions and digging a snow cave for protection.
Rescuers first spotted the men Monday but couldn't immediately hike to them because of darkness and avalanche danger.
After reaching the pair Tuesday morning, rescuers gave Tyndall, 21, and Dale, 20, warm liquids and were assessing them to determine if they could walk back down the mountain on their own. The hike was just a few miles, but conditions were treacherous with snow up to 4 feet deep.
It took searchers about two hours to reach the men from the Paradise ranger station, but Snook was certain they would make it back out before dark.
Tyndall is from Sumner, Wash., and Dale is from Indiana, Snook said. She couldn't confirm media reports that Dale's hometown is Fort Wayne, Ind., and she didn't know how the two knew each other.
Tyndall and Dale were snowboarding Sunday near Camp Muir, a climbers' layover at about the 10,000-foot level of Mount Rainier. They became lost in a snowstorm with high winds that created whiteout conditions, Snook said.
They used a cellphone to call 911 and said they were digging a snow cave for protection.
The two weren't equipped to stay overnight. But they used the cellphone to check in again Monday morning before its battery died, saying they were cold but OK.
Rescuers spotted the pair Monday at about the 7,000-foot level below McClure Rock on the lower Paradise glacier. They were about a half-mile from the two — close enough to wave — but were forced back by nightfall and dangerous conditions.
Thirty rescuers working in five-member teams went out Tuesday through snow 2- to 4-feet deep, Snook said. It was so soft members had to take turns "swimming through the snow" to break a trail.
They were only a few miles from the Paradise ranger station, which is at the 5,400-foot level, but "it's not a straight shot," Snook said.
The weather was better than expected Tuesday with patches of clear sky.
The heavy snow is not unusual for the park.
"This is what happens on Mount Rainier," Snook said. "This is why people use Mount Rainier to train for Mount Everest."