A snowshoer stranded for two nights in a blizzard on frozen Mt. Rainier stayed alive by eating chocolate, burning his money -- and dreaming of a sauna.
Yon Chun Kim seemed none the worse for his chilly ordeal as he chatted amiably Monday night with a TV crew and rangers at Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington state. He had set off Saturday, leading a snowshoeing trip, but became separated from his group when he fell down a steep slope.
"I feel pretty good," he told KOMO-TV, crediting the more than 100 searchers who combed the icy valleys around the landmark peak in the Cascade Mountains. They finally found Kim and hauled him to safety.
"He was conscious and alert, able to walk, and appeared to be in stable condition when they found him," park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said in a statement.
Kim, a 66-year-old resident of Tacoma, Wash., is an experienced snowshoer who was well-equipped for a day hike. But he didn't have overnight gear, Taylor said, not with temperatures dipping into the teens, winds rising and several inches of new snow falling on the mountain's already deep drifts.
After falling and becoming separated from his group, Kim radioed his fellow snowshoers that he would make his own way back and meet them in the parking lot. "I can't go up, you know. I can't walk," Kim said he told the group.
When he didn't show up, fellow hikers alerted rangers. But being less familiar with the area than Kim, they initially weren't able to precisely describe Kim's location.
Teams of searchers and dogs fanned out across the valley, and finally found the stranded hiker Monday afternoon. From there, he had to be placed on a sled, pulled out of the valley and then loaded onto a snow machine for the trip back to the ranger station, where he arrived Monday night.
Kim told KOMO-TV reporters he had some fire starters but eventually had to resort to burning his socks and then some $1 and $5 bills to stay warm. He ate chocolate, ran in place and "dreamed of a sauna," he said.
Malcom An, Kim's son, released a statement through the park service in which the family expressed thanks to rescuers for bringing him back alive.
"I want to thank all of the volunteers and national park staff who worked so hard to find my father," he said. "It’s a miracle that he's alive, but it's an assisted miracle."
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Photo: Yon Chun Kim at Mt. Rainier National Park. Credit: Mount Rainier National Park