Missing snowboarders cold, hungry but finally off Rainier after two long nights

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.

A pair of snowboarders who spent two nights on Mount Rainier after getting trapped in a blizzard Sunday hiked off the volcano in snowshoes this afternoon – hungry, cold and tired but uninjured.

Derek Tyndall and Thomas Dale, each in their early 20s, made it down to Paradise about 3:30 p.m.

“I’ve spent the last half-hour or so with them as they were reunited with their families,” said Mount Rainier National Park spokesman Kevin Bacher.  “I think they are on their way to the National Park Inn to order the biggest meal of their lives.”

Bacher said the two snowboarders – Tyndall, of Sumner, and Dale, of Indiana – were carving turns down from Camp Muir Sunday afternoon when a heavy storm forced them to halt their descent. They did not have overnight gear or extra food, save a few crackers, but immediately began preparing to hunker down for the night.

“They are extraordinarily fortunate,” Bacher said. “This is a case where something went wrong, but from that point on they did everything right. They didn’t compound the situation by making poor decisions.”

The two boarders called 911 and dug a snow cave near a freshwater spring not far from the southern end of the Paradise Glacier and used their snowboards to block its entrance and keep 70 mph winds at bay. They kept themselves warm and dry and did not move around.

“They just hung out talking with each other and waited for rescuers to find them,” Bacher said. “They repeated numerous times that their main goal was to stay mentally strong and alert.”

On Monday, rescuers initially thought the men might have wandered from their initial location, which searchers had tracked as best they could by triangulating the ping off a cell tower from their phone calls. Hampered by snow that was at times chest high, the rescuers didn’t spot the boarders until right at sunset Monday, a half-mile away across a ravine. Search crews shouted and the snowboarders shouted back, but then darkness descended and intermittent clouds returned and searchers lost sight of them again.

“Apparently they hadn’t moved – they just stayed put, which was exactly what we hoped they would do,” Bacher said.

The boarders built a new snow cave, nibbled on their remaining saltine crackers and waited.

Sometime around mid-morning Tuesday, rescuers, who had been working their way around the glacier in six teams of five, finally reached them. The gave the boarders warm liquids and dry clothing and found they had remained uninjured.

The two boarders strapped on extra snowshoes brought by search teams and walked out under their own power.

“We are thrilled it ended this way,” Bacher said. “We couldn’t possibly have asked for a better outcome than this.”

UPDATE: 11:45 a.m. | Searchers on Mount Rainier located the pair of missing snowboarders about 11 a.m. this morning, after the two spent their second night on the mountain without overnight gear.

Rescue crews said they appeared healthy and had no complaints, said Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Lee Snook. Searchers were giving the two men, both in their early 20s, with warm liquids and trying to figure out the safest way down the mountain.

“They didn’t appear to have any cold-weather issues,” Snook said.

Derek Tyndall, of Sumner, and Thomas Dale, from Indiana, set out Sunday afternoon to snowboard down from Camp Muir but called 911 after blizzard conditions forced them to halt their descent.

They built a snow cave and hunkered down for the night during heavy snows and 70 mph winds. Rescue teams headed up the mountain at first light Monday morning, but going was slowed by 20 inches of fresh, thick snow and high avalanche danger.

Search teams spotted the boarders a half-mile across a ravine just before dark Monday and shouted to them. The two men shouted back, but then darkness and clouds descended and search crews didn’t make contact again.

This morning, six ground rescue teams made up of five searchers each returned to the area near McClure Rock, just below 7,400 feet.

UPDATE: 10:50 a.m. | About 30 search and rescue volunteers led by National Park Service guides continued their search for two missing snowboarders on Mount Rainier this morning, at times pushing through chest-deep snow.

Rescue crews continued their search for Derek Tyndall and Thomas Dale, said Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Lee Snook .

The two men, who are in their early 20s, called for help Sunday afternoon. Tyndall and Dale reported that they had become lost in the storm while descending from Camp Muir. The men had winter gear, a smart phone and a compass, but were not prepared to stay on the mountain overnight, according a Mount Rainier National Park spokesman.

Snook said the men were spotted Monday near Paradise Glacier, which is at about 7,000 feet.

Fresh snow is so deep on Mount Rainier that rescuers have to “swim” through it to make progress, a national park spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The snow hasn’t packed in yet, so the 30 rescuers, working in five-member teams, are pushing to break a trail through treacherous terrain and powder that is chest deep in some places. The work is exhausting and slow, forcing each team member to take turns leading the way, Snook said.

Rescue crews were unable to get to them on Monday, Snook said. Today’s forecast is for precipitation and snow, but Snook said it’s unclear whether rescuers will be battling white out conditions.

The men survived Sunday night after building a snow cave, Snook said. It’s unclear where they stayed Monday night.

Rod Tyndall, the  father of one of the missing men, told KING 5 on Monday that “They’ll make it.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind. They’re strong,” l, said. “The guys have gone longer. They had a little water and a little bit of food, is what they told rangers, and they’re together. They’re not separated, so I have no doubt in my mind that makes them stronger as a team to get through it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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