Mount Rainier Snowshoer Burned Money For Warmth

Published January 17, 2012 6:09PM (EST)

SEATTLE (AP) — A snowshoer who was lost in a blizzard for two days on Washington state's Mount Rainier said he burned his paper money for warmth.

Yong Chun Kim, 66, of Tacoma, told KOMO-TV of Seattle ( ) that he had fire starters with him and first burned some leaves. Then he started burning personal items: his socks and then $1 and $5 bills from his wallet.

Kim also said he kept moving to keep warm, took cover under a tree at night and dreamed of his wife and a nice hot sauna.

He became separated from his snowshoe group Saturday and wasn't rescued until Monday. Kim was in such good shape that when he was found, he did not have to go to a hospital and instead home with his family.

Searchers traversed deep snow and snowshoed up a river valley to pull him from the icy remote backcountry. The team reached Kim on Monday afternoon but it took nine hours to bring him from the rugged terrain covered in deep snow to a road, spokeswoman Lee Taylor said late Monday.

"The rangers, they're good people," Kim told KOMO. "I love them."

Taylor told the News Tribune newspaper of Tacoma, Wash., that Kim, an experienced hiker, was alert, conscious and stable when he was found by the team of three searchers.

He was reported missing on Saturday after he fell down a slope and became separated from a group he was leading in the Paradise area, a popular high-elevation destination on the mountain's southwest flank, about a 100-mile drive south from Seattle.

Snowshoers use specialized footgear that allows them to spread their weight over a larger area, which keeps them from sinking into deep snow and makes it possible to hike into snowy areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. Kim, who has been snowshoeing for a decade, was well equipped for a day trip but didn't have overnight gear.

Because Kim was the leader of his group, other snowshoers weren't able to accurately describe where he had slipped, Taylor said. Searchers had initially believed Kim fell in a different area, based on descriptions from the group, Taylor said.

Taylor said he was in a remote area with deep snow. Mount Rainier has seen temperatures in the teens, and eight inches of new snow fell in some places since Saturday. Wind-blown snow drifts were as high as 30 inches in some areas.

Bad weather prevented a helicopter rescue, so crews used a Sno-Cat snow vehicle to reach the area where Kim was. Then "searchers had to snowshoe up the river valley to reach him, load him into a kind of a litter that could be slid across the snow, sort of a sled, bring him back down and get him back into the Sno-Cat and bring the Sno-Cat back out to the road," Taylor said.

Kim's son, Malcom An, thanked authorities and the rescuers in a statement released through the National Park Service.

"A terrible situation that could have ended in tragedy, instead turned into another beautiful example of how Americans come together to help each other," he said.

Kim's sister-in-law, Sang Soon Tomyn, told The Associated Press that "as soon as we heard he was alive, my sister, his wife, praised God and said 'Hallelujah.' "We were so worried. We prayed every day."

She said her brother-in-law was a strong hiker, had food in his backpack and knew the area very well.

"He's a very strong person," she said.

By Salon Staff

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