CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN, Wash. — An avid skier who was lost and missing overnight at Crystal Mountain Resort was found safe Monday after he managed to ski through miles of forest in the Mt. Rainier National Park to a closed section of highway where he texted his wife and authorities for help.
Matthew Paddock, 52, had been missing for 24 hours when he was rescued. "Giving up wasn't an option," Paddock told KIRO 7 after he reunited with his family and was released after being checked out by medical staff. The temperature on Crystal Mountain dropped to 16 degrees overnight.
Paddock said his ski outing took a treacherous turn on his last run of the day, when he entered the Southback backcountry area, which he said he skied "at least 100 times."
Signs at the entrance of Southback warn expert skiers to have a partner, a shovel, supplies and a transceiver. Paddock said he had none of those things and when he made a wrong turn and became lost, he knew he had to made quick decisions to survive the night on the mountain.
"It was starting to get dark, and I just stopped," Paddock said. "I hunkered down and I built a little makeshift snow lean-to, put my skis down and some pine boughs and made a nest, and that was my home."
Paddock said he maintained and preserved body heat by carving a walking path, and making laps on the path when his temperature dropped overnight.
Paddock's wife, Kirsten Sycamore, was told the search was called off overnight. "I was petrified for him," she said. "I thought he was lost in a tree well and didn't have anybody there to help him, so I was extremely scared."
Paddock said at daybreak, he skied down to where he figured he'd run into highway 410. Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol Director Kin Kircher said Paddock somehow managed to ski through extremely steep "un-skiable"
canyons and avoided tree wells and unstable, deep snow forming cornices which could collapse and take a skier with it.
"It was a miracle," Kircher said. "We always honestly hope for the best, but it was getting along to the point where I was starting to fear the worst."
Paddock said there are a lot of life lessons to take away from his experience, like always ski with a partner, and proper equipment, including a transceiver, for places where cell signals do not exist.
Paddock simplified his reflection on surviving forbidding conditions for 24 hours. "I was lucky," he said.