UPDATE, 8:25 P.M. | The search for the two missing snowboarders has been called off for the night and will resume at first light Tuesday. The two young men will have to spend a second night on the mountain, according to Kevin Bacher, Mount Rainier National Park spokesman
UPDATE: 5 p.m. | Just before dark, rescuers hunting for two missing snowboarders on Mount Rainier spotted two people moving down the Paradise Glacier before losing contact again in the clouds and darkness.
Mount Rainier National Park spokesman Kevin Bacher said searchers are “95 percent sure” that the people they contacted are Derek Tyndall and Thomas Dale, the two missing snowboarders who called 911 on Sunday to report they were trapped in a blizzard.
“We made visual contact,” Bacher said. “We shouted to them and they shouted back. They are moving down the valley and our teams are circling around to intercept them at the bottom. I’m listening to my radio. We’re hoping to make contact with them soon.”
Still, that initial contact was 90 minutes earlier and conditions on Rainier remain severe, with 20 inches of fresh snow and intermittent cloud cover in darkness.
Bacher said the two snowboarders who had spent the previous night in a snow cave apparently had left their perch and started moving at some point during the day.
“That’s no surprise,” Bacher said. “You can only sit still for so long before you start to get hypothermic. We saw tracks and spotted them in the distance, all in about a five- to 10-minute period around 3 p.m. We’ve since been maneuvering around to meet them.”
Searchers have positioned themselves in three teams so that no matter which way the snowboarders travel they should eventually come into contact with rescue crews.
Even then, it’s probably a three-hour return trip to Paradise.
Rescuers slogging through fresh snow and near-whiteout conditions on Mount Rainier believe they may be close to where a pair of snowboarders spent an unplanned night in a snow cave after getting trapped in a blizzard Sunday.
The two snowboarders, Derek Tyndall and Thomas Dale, both in their early 20s, had been boarding down from Camp Muir Sunday afternoon when an intense storm forced them to abandon their descent and seek shelter, said Kevin Bacher, spokesman for Mount Rainier National Park. They stopped and dug into a snow cave and called 911 about 4:30 p.m., but it was too late in the day, and conditions were too severe, for rescue crews to attempt to reach them Sunday.
They two men were wearing winter gear and carried a compass and phones, but were not prepared to spend a night outside. Park officials were in contact with them by cell phone again Thursday morning as rescuers began making their way up the volcano.
“They were in good shape,” Bacher said. “They were cold but in good condition. It was blizzard conditions — we had 70 mph winds at Paradise last night, so I’m sure it was very unpleasant.”
On Monday, four teams totaling 28 people, including Park Service searchers and 18 members from Tacoma and Olympic mountain rescue teams headed up with two search dogs from Kitsap County to try and locate the snowboarders. But searchers were slowed by 20 inches of fresh snow and intermittent clouds that reduced visibility to about 100 feet.
The two snowboarders had described nearby landmarks to park officials, and rescuers were also able to triangulate a general location by tracing pings off of cell towers from their phone. But the snowboarders’ phones were dead by 10 a.m. and rescuers did not know if they were a few dozen yards away or several hundred.
“The biggest challenge we’ve had today is getting to the search location,” Bacher said. “It’s taken much of the day just getting up there. We are at the location that is the most likely place for them to be. But it’s a pretty big area.”
Bacher said the primary search area is near McClure Rock, at about 7,400 feet. Rescuers are shouting and blowing whistles and a chopper from Northwest Helicopter will soon join the search.
“We’re thinking they’re somewhere in that area there,” Bacher said just before 2 p.m. Monday. “But we could be off.”
He also said there’s no telling whether the snowboarders stayed huddled in their snow cave. The Park Service encouraged them to stay put, but recognized they may have started to move in order to avoid hypothermia, Bacher said.