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Stranded snowmobilers rescued Tuesday on Blowout Mountain
After two days stranded near Blowout Mountain in a winter storm, two snowmobilers were rescued early this morning, Tuesday, Feb. 26. With the help of King County Search and Rescue volunteers, they were able to hike out on the reverse path of rescuers who spent hours Monday night trying to reach them.
Blowout Mountain is in the Cascades, south of Lake Keechelus near Snoqualmie Pass.
The 44-year-old Puyallup man and the 41-year-old Spanaway woman with him were "very cold and wet" when they reached the command post around 7:30 a.m., said King County Sheriff's spokesperson Cindi West, but otherwise unharmed.
About 40 rescuers spent yesterday searching for the couple, who reported their position between Green Pass and Twin Camps early yesterday morning. The couple had been riding snowmobiles the day before, but on their way back to the truck, they faced severe weather and decided to shelter in place, according to updates Monday from King County Sheriff's spokesperson Charlie Akers.
"They stayed the night on the mountain in a snow cave they built," Akers reported, and Monday morning, the man walked out to find an area where his cell phone had a signal. He contacted his daughter, who called the sheriff's office at 9:50 a.m. The man had sent his GPS location by text, but the information conflicted with where he said they were.
"One good thing was the guy knew where he was," West said. Rescuers re-entered the GPS coordinates differently to get a location that better matched where the man said they were, and about 40 volunteers began searching the mountain on foot, in snowmobiles and in larger, enclosed snowcats.
Weather complicated the search West said. They couldn't bring a helicopter in to help because of white-out conditions, and there was a high risk of avalanches. Akers reported that at least one crew had to turn around after the ground under them collapsed; a few searchers fell but no injuries were reported.
Also, West said the rescuers' snowmobiles "were getting stuck because there were 16- to 20-foot snowdrifts."
Once rescuers abandoned their snowmobiles, they spent another four hours hiking to the couple, covering about two miles.
West said that "According to our Search and Rescue guys, (the couple) did a couple things that were really smart. Number one, they built a snow cave, and number two, they stayed put.
Rescuers knew pretty much where to go, and reached the couple around 11:30 p.m., Akers reported in an e-mail message, adding "Crews are planning on getting the two warmed up and off of the mountain tonight."
Another update at 5:30 a.m. reported that the rescuers and the couple were on their way back, and about two hours out. They were reported back at the snow park just before 7 a.m. this morning.