Snowshoe Hiker Burned Money to Stay Alive
A 66-year-old snowshoe hiker who had been missing in the mountains of Washington state for two days said he survived because of the warmth created from burning his own money.
Yong Chun Kim, of Tacoma, Wash., was found by a trio of searchers Monday after he'd spent two nights in freezing temperatures. Even though Kim wasn't equipped with overnight gear, officials said medics cleared him so that he could skip the hospital and head straight home.
"I feel pretty good," Kim told ABC affiliate KOMO-TV as he enjoyed a cup of hot coffee at a ranger station late Monday.
Kim survived temperatures reportedly in the teens by using fire starters to burn leaves, socks, even $1 and $5 bills. He later took cover under a tree during the night.
"The Rangers, they're good people," Kim told KOMO-TV. "I love them."
Kim was reported missing after he fell down a slope and became separated from his group. Kim, who had 12 years of experience as a snowshoer, was leading the group to an area called Paradise, located 5,400 feet in Mount Rainier National Park.
According to a statement released by public information officer Patti Wold, reports from two other parties on the mountain over the past two days were past due, and a limited field search was under way.
"With the severe weather conditions over the weekend, it is expected that the parties would be overdue," said Wold.
A winter storm warning is in effect for the area through Wednesday night, when 24 to 42 inches of new snow is expected to fall.
"Due to weather conditions, it is expected that they are waiting out the weather before attempting their descents to Paradise," said Wold.
According to National Park spokeswoman Lee Taylor, bad weather had also played a role in Kim's rescue. The wind-blown snow drifts and 30 inches of snow in some areas prevented a helicopter rescue, forcing crews to use a Sno-Cat vehicle to reach Kim.
"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.
Aside from burning dollar bills in his wallet, Kim found comfort in dreaming of his wife, and thoughts of a nice hot sauna helped him through the chilling nights.