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Climber survived on hope, bugs

Derek Mamoyac was missing five days on Mt. Adams, Wash.

October 26, 2008|Mary Hudetz | Hudetz writes for the Associated Press.

PORTLAND, ORE. — Derek Mamoyac, a climber who survived five nights alone on a southern Washington mountain and ate insects while crawling toward safety, remembers well how his mountain meals tasted.

The centipedes? Like Doritos.

And the ants? Spicy, like hot tamales.

"When you are out there you kind of become one with your surroundings," said Mamoyac, who was reported missing after venturing on a one-day climb up Mt. Adams recently. "It really seems like nothing when you are out there eating insects."

Mamoyac, 27, of Philomath, Ore., began his hike up Mt. Adams before dawn on Oct. 12. Family members reported him missing the next day when he failed to show up for work.

He was found Oct. 17 and flown by helicopter to a Portland hospital, where he spoke to reporters Wednesday while recovering from a broken and dislocated ankle and frostbitten toes.

Mamoyac said that while on the mountain, he wouldn't allow himself to dwell on the possibility that he would not be rescued.

"As long as I'm still alive, I can still be found," he remembered thinking. "Not making it is not an option."

Mamoyac appeared to be in good spirits after surviving five days in the wilderness, where he said he also drank water from creeks and ate mushrooms and berries as he tried to crawl to safety.

He said he has climbed Mt. Hood in Oregon and Mt. Shasta in California, two of the Cascade Range's most daunting peaks. But it was his hike on the lesser-known Adams that brought unforgettable challenges.

Mamoyac compared the wind on the mountain's 11,657-foot Piker's Peak in southern Washington that Sunday to the force of a freight train. With ice chips blowing in his eyes, he said, he decided to turn back.

But while making his way down, he lost his footing on a patch of snow. The ground beneath it wasn't solid, he said, and he fell down a slope, breaking his ankle along the way.

As Mamoyac crawled through the rough terrain, rocks cut through a pair of snow pants he was wearing, scraping his skin.

He knew there was a trail that wrapped around the mountain, and he thought if he could reach it, he would be found.

"Surviving, beating the odds, requires believing in the impossible," he said.

Mamoyac was found with swollen legs and suffering from dehydration.

When he heard the voices of the search team, he began to yell. When the rescuers reached him, he said, he felt tears.

"I was very happy. It was the best feeling of my life."

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