Two snowboarders at Mount Rainier National Park became lost during a snowstorm over the weekend and survived by spending the night in a snow cave. Snow caves are easy to make and practicing is good fun on a cold winter day. Park officials also recommend carrying essential gear when exploring the backcountry. Below is the National Park Service account of the ordeal:

Missing Snowboarders Found

Date: November 13, 2012

At approximately 1100 hours this morning, searchers at Mount Rainier National Park found the two snowboarders who have been missing since Sunday, November 11th. Derek Tyndall, 21, and Thomas Dale, 20, had spent Sunday snowboarding in the area above Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park before they became lost in white-out winter snow conditions while descending from Camp Muir.

Monday’s search efforts focused on an area believed to be where the two snowboarders had spent Sunday evening. On late Monday afternoon searchers had a visual of what they believed were the missing snowboarders. Because of difficult terrain and low visibility, they were not able to make contact with these individuals before nightfall.

Today the park deployed a stronger search response over a greater area of the park, with volunteers from Tacoma, Olympic, and Seattle Mountain Rescue Teams; as well as four dog teams from the Washington Search and Rescue Task Force.

Derek and Thomas were found by one of the search groups in the Upper Stevens Creek drainage. Currently Mr. Tyndall and Mr. Dale are being rewarmed, as an appropriate way to extricate them is being determined.

Searchers utilized a combination of snowshoes and skis in the difficult conditions they found on the Mountain. Stefan Lofgren, the Incident Commander on this search said, “We are relieved to have found Derek and Thomas! The health and safety of not only our two lost subjects but all of our searchers had been and will continue to be our greatest concern today considering the high avalanche danger and the deep and laborious snow conditions.”

Mount Rainier is a beautiful and alluring place to visit in the winter; however it is a dynamic and extreme environment that become hazardous if you are not prepared. When planning a trip to Mount Rainier’s backcountry in the winter, consider these important tips:

Before you leave home check and heed local weather forecasts, realizing weather can change for the worse in a very short period of time. Know your experience and ability to survive in an alpine environment and don’t exceed. Always carry survival gear with you, including the 10 essentials. Bring extra clothing and food in case you have to spend the night out. Always leave word with someone on the specifics of where you’re going and when you expect to be home. It is always safest to not travel alone. While electronic locators and communication can be helpful, they cannot be always relied upon while in the Mount Rainier backcountry. Remember you need to be responsible for your own safety.


Search for missing snowboarders will continue tomorrow

Date: November 12, 2012

Searchers at Mount Rainier National Park were not able to locate two missing snowboarders today before night and poor weather drove them off the mountain.

Derek Tyndall, 21, and Thomas Dale, 20, called 9-1-1 at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11 to report that they had become lost in a winter storm while descending from Camp Muir. They had winter gear, smart phones, and a compass, but no overnight gear. The two checked in by cell phone this morning and reported that they had made a snow cave for the night and were cold but in good condition. The weather overnight was severe, with high winds and 20 inches of fresh snow at Paradise. Based on landmarks the two were able to describe in the fog, and information from their cell phone before the battery died, searcher focused on an area around McClure Rock at about 7500 feet elevation. A total of 28 people participated in the search, including 18 members of Tacoma and Olympic Mountain Rescue and two search dogs from Kitsap County. A contract helicopter was on standby but the weather never cooperated enough for it to reach the search location.

About 3:00 this afternoon, one of the search teams made brief visual contact, from a distance of about half a mile, with two individuals who matched Tyndall and Dale’s description and seemed to be in good condition on the lower Paradise Glacier. Due to the steep terrain, it took several hours for the search teams to circle around to the location, and deep, fresh snow slowed progress to half a mile per hour with searchers trading off to break trail. Attempts to locate or contact the individuals proved unsuccessful. The search was called off for the day about 7 p.m. as night, weather, low visibility, increasing avalanche danger, and dangerous terrain made continued efforts dangerous and unproductive.