SEATTLE (AP) — Fresh snow is so deep on Mount Rainier that rescuers searching for two snowboarders lost in a storm 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, said Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Lee Snook.
The men, Derek Tyndall, 21, and Thomas Dale, 20, were lost Sunday and haven't been heard from in more than a day. They were descending from a camp about 10,000 feet up the mountain when the storm hit, dropping 2 to 4 feet of snow. They used a cellphone to call 911 and said they were digging a snow cave for protection.
They weren't equipped to stay overnight, however they checked in Monday morning before their cellphone died, saying they were cold but OK.
Rescue teams spotted Tyndall and Dale late Monday. They were within a half-mile and able to wave at each other, but darkness and dangerous conditions, which include the risk of avalanche, forced them back. Snook couldn't confirm whether they were in voice contact.
Park rangers think the men dug another snow cave for the second night on the mountain, but haven't been able to confirm that since the pair's cellphone went out Monday.
The men are dressed for snowboarding and have a compass, but they carried no overnight gear and little food and water, Snook said.
They descended from Camp Muir and were last seen at about the 7,000-foot level below McClure Rock. They were apparently headed toward the Paradise ranger station, which is at the 5,400-foot level. They may be only a few miles from the ranger station, Snook said, but "it's not a straight shot."
More snow expected Tuesday could aggravate conditions and reduce visibility, she said.