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Updated Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 12:49 PM

2 missing snowboarders sighted on Mount Rainier

By Craig Welch
Seattle Times environment reporter

Rescuers Monday said they spotted two snowboarders who, stranded by bad weather, had spent the night on Mount Rainier. But the team was not able to reach the two men before darkness fell and foul weather forced the searchers off the mountain.

The two young men, Derek Tyndall and Thomas Dale, had to spend a second night on the mountain, according to a news release from Kevin Bacher, spokesman for Mount Rainier National Park.

Just before dark, rescuers hunting for the missing snowboarders saw two people moving down the Paradise Glacier before losing contact again in the clouds and darkness.

Bacher said searchers were "95 percent sure" that the people they contacted are Tyndall and Dale. The two men 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."

But those hopes were dashed after dark Monday, when rescuers had to call off the search for the night. Conditions on Rainier were severe, with 20 inches of fresh snow and intermittent cloud cover.

The search will resume at first light Tuesday, Bacher said.

He said the two snowboarders who had spent Sunday 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."

During the day Monday, searchers positioned themselves in three teams so that no matter which way the snowboarders traveled chances were good they would eventually come into contact with rescue crews.

The snowboarders, both in their early 20s, had been boarding down from Camp Muir on Sunday afternoon when an intense storm forced them to abandon their descent and seek shelter, Bacher said.

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.

The two men were wearing winter gear and carried a compass and phones, but they were not prepared to spend a night outside. Park officials were in contact with them by cellphone again Monday 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 (Sunday) 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 the fresh snow and intermittent clouds that reduced visibility to about 100 feet.

The snowboarders had described nearby landmarks to park officials, and rescuers were also able to triangulate a general location by tracing pings off cell towers from their phone.

Bacher said the primary search area was near McClure Rock, at about 7,400 feet.

Craig Welch: 206-464-2093 or cwelch@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @craigawelch.






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