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Rescuers find Paynesville, Minn., grad uninjured in Washington mountains

PAYNESVILLE -- A 2009 Paynesville Area High School graduate was found uninjured today on a snow-packed Washington mountainside after being missing for two days.

Late in the day Thursday, four skilled rope climbers reached 21-year-old Ezra Thompson where he had been stranded on a ledge at about 6,700 feet in rugged terrain in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington.

Chelan County (Wash.) Sheriff Brian Burnett said in a news release this evening that search and rescue ground crews found Thompson in good spirits and that he will be able to walk on his own when he is brought down from the rocky bench where he spent the night.

Due to the very difficult terrain, it is estimated it will take the rescue team approximately two to three hours to bring Thompson to safety.

4:30 p.m. report

Four skilled rope climbers are expected to reach a stranded snow shoe hiker from Paynesville within the hour and rescue him from rugged terrain in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington.

"We found Ezra Thompson," said Lt. Maria Agnew, with the Chelan County Sheriff's Department, in a telephone interview about 4 p.m. today.

"He is in snow and rugged terrain that's usually reserved for intermediate and advanced hikers," she said, adding that "he seems to be fine" but that verbal contact hadn't been made yet.

Thompson was snowshoeing near Stevens Pass to reach Holden Village, a Christian retreat center where he has a summer job. He apparently got into an area that he was unable to traverse.

Agnew said four climbers were approaching Thompson in a snow-packed area at an elevation of 6,700 feet that's vulnerable to avalanches.

"He found the one safe spot, which is good," said Agnew.

The rescue team was expected to use ropes to help Thompson down the mountainside. They would have to hike about a mile to reach a landing zone that is safe for helicopters to land.

She said helicopters equipped with winches that could havve been used to hoist Thompson from the scene could not be used because of severe weather in the area.

Agnew said the outcome for Thompson is "definitely positive" but that the conditions of the terrain is making the rescue slow-going. "It's just taking some time," she said.

"It'll be a nice interview when we get him out of there," she said.

Thompson's family has been keeping contact with the sheriff's department via email and telephone, said Agnew, who is handling all media inquires.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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