Miracle in the Mountains

Unable to Walk: Climber Survives on Bugs, Urine

A 27-year-old Oregon climber who survived five days on southern Washington's Mount Adams with a broken ankle told rescuers he ate centipedes and drank his own urine on the very last day before his rescue.

A dog from a search and rescue team located Derek Mamoyac of Philomath, Ore., on the west side of the mountain, just below the 6,000-foot level, at about 2 p.m. Friday.

He was taken by helicopter to Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center in Portland, Ore., where he was listed in fair condition. In addition to his ankle injury, he was dehydrated and had swollen legs.

Family members who initially spoke with him briefly by phone said he sounded good.

"It's like waking up from a horrible dream," said his sister, Sophia Mamoyac.

Before leaving for the trip, Mamoyac told his girlfriend he planned to summit the mountain Sunday, sheriffs said.

The missing climber’s father, Steve Mamoyac, reported him missing Monday when he failed to show up for work. He's been at the mountain since the search began four days ago.

Mamoyac’s car was found at the Cold Springs trailhead, about 11 miles north of Trout Lake, Monday afternoon.

Jill Bartlett and other rescuers spoke glowingly of Mamoyac after he was found alive after five frigid days and nights on the mountain.

"He was in very good shape for what he went through," she told The Oregonian.

As she and several other rescuers waited with him before he was flown from the mountain, he told them he ate centipedes and other bugs after running out of food early in the week. He also drank water from creeks.

He was wearing water-resistant pants, insulated boots and gloves but was still very cold.

"We put all our coats on him, and he was still shivering," Bartlett said. "We asked him, 'Are you warm? and he said 'yeah.' "

Mamoyac was found by the team of Greg Varney with his search dog, Trulee, a golden retriever, and navigator, Ron Buermann, who kept them on course.

Mamoyac told rescuers that his climbing trip turned bad as he was descending after reaching Piker's Peak at 11,657 feet, below the mountain's summit. He stepped in some snow he thought was solid, but it gave way.

Bartlett said the climber broke his right ankle tumbling down the mountain.

He spent nearly four days crawling and dragging his feet through the snow, trying to drag himself off the mountain.

When his knees hurt too much to crawl, he said he would turn around and scoot backward.

"We get happy endings, but not at the end of a five-day search," rescuer Varney said.

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