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Hiker lost in blizzard burned money to keep warm

A HIKER who was lost in a blizzard for two days said he burned his socks and money to keep warm.

Yong Chun Kim, 66, of Tacoma, who was climbing Mount Rainier in Washington State, said 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.

Mr 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. Mr Kim was in such good shape that when he was found, he did not have to go to a hospital and, instead, went 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, spokesman Lee Taylor said.

"The rangers, they're good people," Mr Kim told KOMO-TV of Seattle. "I love them."

Miss Taylor told the News Tribune newspaper of Tacoma, Washington, that Mr 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 specialised 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. Mr Kim, who has been snowshoeing for a decade, was well-equipped for a day trip but did not have overnight gear.

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

Miss Taylor said he was in a remote area with deep snow.

Mount Rainier has seen temperatures in the teens (around -9C), 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.

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.