Outdoor Briefs

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2003

Girdwood company wins heliskiing contract

ANCHORAGE -- Helicopters can continue to fly skiers and snowboarders into the Chugach National Forest backcountry this winter after the U.S. Forest Service approved a one-year permit for a Girdwood company.

Chugach Powder Guides won several new landing zones on national forest land, though it lost others, said co-owner Mike Overcast. But overall, the company came out ahead. Under the new permit, CPG gets 1,200 skier days this winter, up from 800 last year. One person skiing or snowboarding for one day equals one skier day.

''We're happy with what we got,'' Overcast said.

The company was given a total of seven landing sites.

CPG had originally sought three additional sites near Moose Pass. That prompted complaints by local residents. Chugach Powder Guides dropped the Moose Pass-area sites from its one-year permit request, saying it wanted to be a good neighbor.

Four overdue climbers found on Rainier

PARADISE, Wash. -- Four climbers who were reported overdue in returning from outings on Mount Rainier were found in good condition Tuesday, and apparently weren't aware that they were the subject of a search.

''It looked like they were just chatting,'' said Fay Pullen, 60, of Kent, who was skiing in the backcountry when she spotted the climbers and used her wireless phone to notify authorities.

''They didn't look like they were in distress. They looked like they were enjoying the sunshine -- as was I,'' she told The News Tribune of Tacoma.

The two men and two women hiked out after nightfall Tuesday, guided by rangers and volunteers who had been searching for them. The four were all in good condition except for one woman's frostbitten fingers.

Pullen came across the group -- the two missing men, Christopher McGinnis, 51, of Mukilteo, and Quang Than, 47, of Newport Beach, Calif., and two women climbers -- around 2:25 p.m. Tuesday, said Lee Taylor, spokeswoman for Mount Rainier National Park.

The women were identified as Karen Arkin of Berkeley, Calif., who was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup for treatment of frostbite, and Bree Loewen of Seattle.

The two women had been reported overdue earlier Tuesday by the boyfriend of one of them, while the two men had been reported overdue after they failed to return as scheduled on Sunday.

After speaking with the park officials on Pullen's phone, the climbers said they would follow her ski tracks down the mountain. They were at an elevation level of 7,200 feet, about four miles from the Paradise parking lot, Taylor said.

It was unclear how the foursome ended up together, she said.

The two men had plans to climb the Gibraltar Ledges route -- the highest reaches of the Nisqually Glacier on the southern flank of the 14,411-foot mountain.

The male climbers were equipped with extra food and fuel. McGinnis had climbed Mount Rainier three times before and had climbed Mount McKinley and other Alaskan peaks, Taylor said, while Than had climbed Rainier once.

''It's not uncommon for climbing parties to be on the route for longer than they had anticipated,'' Taylor said, ''especially in the winter when the weather can change quickly.''

Paradise received 22 inches of snow from Saturday morning through Tuesday morning, and searchers said their snowshoes sank 12 inches in places.

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