SEATTLE – Two snowboarders who spent two nights stranded on Mount Rainier were well enough to snowshoe out Tuesday after rescuers had to "swim" through snow that was chest-deep in spots to reach them, national park officials said.
Derek Tyndall and Thomas Dale didn't appear to have frostbite or other injuries when rescuers reached them around 11 a.m., park spokeswoman Lee Snook said.
The two had been stuck on the 14,410-foot mountain since Sunday after getting lost in whiteout conditions and digging a snow cave for protection. Rescuers first spotted the men Monday but couldn't immediately hike to them because of darkness and avalanche danger.
After reaching the pair Tuesday, rescuers gave Tyndall, 21, and Dale, 20, warm liquids and assessed them to determine if they could walk back down the mountain on their own.
The two snowboarders and the rescue team made it off the mountain at about 3:30 p.m. and were reunited with their families, spokesman Kevin Bacher said.
"They came out on their own power," he said. "They are free now to go wherever they will."
Tyndall is from Sumner, Wash., and Dale is from Indiana, Snook said. She couldn't confirm media reports that Dale's hometown is Fort Wayne, Ind., and she didn't know how the two knew each other. Fort Wayne Community Schools spokeswoman Krista Stockman said Dale had attended Snider High School.
Tyndall and Dale were snowboarding Sunday near Camp Muir, a climbers' layover at about the 10,000-foot level of Mount Rainier. They became lost in a snowstorm with high winds that created whiteout conditions, Snook said.
They used a cellphone to call 911 and said they were digging a snow cave for protection.
The two weren't equipped to stay overnight. However, they said they were cold but OK when they used the cellphone to check in again Monday morning before its battery died.
Rescuers spotted the pair Monday at about the 7,000-foot level below McClure Rock on the lower Paradise glacier. They were about a half-mile from the two — close enough to wave — but were forced back by nightfall and dangerous conditions.
Thirty rescuers working in five-member teams went out Tuesday through snow 2 to 4 feet deep, Snook said. It was so soft members had to take turns "swimming through the snow" to break a trail.
The weather was better than expected Tuesday with patches of clear sky at the park, where heavy snow is not unusual.
"This is what happens on Mount Rainier," Snook said. "This is why people use Mount Rainier to train for Mount Everest."
In January, four people disappeared in snowstorms on the mountain, which draws between 1.5 million and 2 million visitors each year. The bodies of three of them were found over the summer after snow melted.