Yong Chun Kim, 66-years old snowshoer was lost in a blizzard for two days on Mount Rainier after sliding down a slope and becoming separated from his group. He had been leading a 16 member hiking and climbing club group on Saturday, January 14, 2012 on a trip that he takes almost every week.
Yong Chun Kim slid down a slope and became separated from the group, but radioed them to say he was okay and would meet them farther down the trail. Only problem, he got disoriented and went the wrong way. The hiking and climbing club group last heard from him on the radio at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. After returning to the parking lot, they didn’t see Kim. Park officials started a search team with dozens of park rangers, resuce dog, volunteers and searchers from several other rescue organizations. They searched for the 66-year old snowshoer, Yong Chun Kim for three days in the snowy mountain terrain.
While search and rescue team were trying to find Yong Chun Kim, he was trying to stay alive in the severe weather conditions. Kim served in the South Korean military in the Vietnam War and used those skills he learned to help survive.
Temperatures were in the teens and the winds whipping on the mountain while Kim kept walking and moving to try to stay warm. He took cover in tree wells which are depressions in the snow that form around a tree and would sleep standing up for 5 – 10 minutes at a time.
He attempted to make a shelter by a large rock and tried to stay warm, but he admitted when he would walk around, “the snow was so deep I couldn’t breathe”.
Yong Chun Kim said that he thought about his wife and talked to himself while he took pictures trying to keep his mind of his situation. He prayed and worried that his family and friends worried about him. The 66-year old snowshoer made a fire by burning his personal things like extra socks, Band-aids, toothbrush and packaging. After he ran out of personal things to burn, he started to burn $1 and $5 bill from his wallet.
“I worried because it’s a national park. You’re not supposed to have a fire. I’m worried about that but I want to stay alive.” He added while laughing, “Money made for the best fire. Nylon socks and packaging, not so great.”
When rescuers found him on Monday he was about a mile from where he was last seen with the group. The good news, Yong Chun Kim, 66-years old, was in such good shape that when they found him, he didn’t have to go to the hospital, instead he went home with to his family.
Kim said, “I go to the mountains for the fresh air and it’s good medicine for recovering from cancer. When I get out there, it’s a nice view. Everytime, same location, different feeling though.”
The snowshoer says that his experience won’t stop him from going to Mount Rainier again. “Oh yeah, of course I’ll keep going, every Saturday.” But he added: “If it’s a bad day, don’t hike again.”