Trio tunnels through 30 feet of snow after avalanche

January 06, 1992|By Linda W. Y. Parrish | Linda W. Y. Parrish,Seattle Times

GRANITE FALLS, Wash. -- Three hikers used a pocket knife to tunnel their way through 30 feet of snow after an avalanche trapped them in an ice cave in the mountains of Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

In addition, the pregnant wife of one of the hikers was carried about 300 feet across a snow field by Saturday's avalanche, at the same time her husband was trapped inside the cave.

Robin Peterson, 19, who is almost 7 1/2 months pregnant, was scheduled to leave Everett's General Hospital Medical Center yesterday.

The young woman had contractions Saturday night after the incident, but she was stabilized at the hospital, and tests showed that the baby was fine. Mrs. Peterson sustained bruises and bumps but was resting comfortably, said her husband, David Peterson.

"It was stupid of us to go up," said Mr. Peterson, 22, a day-care teacher. "We honestly thought we would be OK. . . . You learn from experience. We've definitely learned our lesson."

The Petersons and Vaughn Rodewald, 23, all of Seattle, and Mike Kichline, 21, of Mountlake Terrace, headed to the Big Four Ice Caves in the Cascade Mountains, about 40 miles east of Everett, at about 2:50 p.m. Saturday.

Using flashlights and a lantern, the men, two of them members of the Snohomish County Search and Rescue team, were about 500 feet inside the cave when the avalanche blocked the narrow entrance they had walked through earlier.

"We heard this big rumble, and it was really, really loud," Mr. Peterson said. "Louder than thunder. It was deafening."

"All we could think about was my wife out there. Pregnant. Alone. Scared and confused," he added.

The men immediately took turns using a 3-inch pocket knife to chip a 2-foot-wide tunnel through the snow. The men took about 30 minutes to crawl and push one another through the hole.

"The thing that really scared me was coming up 30 feet through this little bitty hole," said Mr. Peterson, who said he was claustrophobic.

Meanwhile, on the outside, Robin Peterson had lost her glasses and could barely see.

With a bruise on her head from her fall, Mrs. Peterson stumbled down the trail until she met three men who took her to get help.

Firefighters met the men about 10 minutes after they hiked down the mile-long trail from the caves to the parking area.

Snow was falling at the time of the incident, and 8 to 10 inches of fresh snow made venturing into the caves dangerous, according to Bob Anderson, chief of Snohomish County Fire District 23.

"Those are three very lucky gentlemen," Mr. Anderson said.

Rangers from the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest routinely warn that climbing around the ice caves is hazardous.

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