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, November 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, searchers focused on an area around McClure Rock at around 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 7:00 as night, weather, low visibility, increasing avalanche danger, and dangerous terrain made continued efforts dangerous and unproductive.
Search teams will renew their efforts at first light tomorrow morning.
Last winter was a challenging one at Mount Rainier with numerous rescues and several fatalities. The National Park Service urges people to enjoy the mountain safely. Carry extra gear and be prepared to spend the night out. Get a detailed and up-to-date weather forecast. Let family and friends know your plans and itinerary. Know your capabilities, and turn around before exceeding them.