Rescued Snoqualmie Pass skier faces amputation
12:49 PM PST on Friday, February 13, 2004
From KING5 Staff Reports
SEATTLE - The skier who was lost for five days near Snoqualmie Pass last month faces a new ordeal.
Doctors at Harborview Medical Center plan to amputate Dan Witkowski's legs below the knee.
Witkowski, 25, suffered an extreme case of frostbite. Doctors had hoped he'd only lose a few toes, but infection set in.
Dan Witkowski recounted his four days and nights in the frigid cold in the Washington Cascade Range.
Witkowski got lost after he began skiing by himself at Alpental, off Interstate 90 about 40 miles east of Seattle, the morning of New Year's Eve. He soon decided to begin skiing out-of-bounds, as he often did.
Friends and family began missing him by the middle of the night and started calling Alpental's ski patrol, which launched the search the next morning.
Dan had no food, not so much as an energy bar. He tried to keep moving to maintain his temperature, resting on beds of stripped tree branches before dark so he'd have enough energy to continue through the night. He never stopped for long, he said, because whenever he did he began shaking. Eventually, he covered about 10 miles, though he was found only 5 miles from the ski area.
About 20 inches of snow fell during the time he was missing, so the scores of rescuers who looked for him without believing he was still alive had trouble finding tracks. It was only when the weather cleared Sunday and helicopters were able to fly over the area that they began to see specks of gear in the snow - his jettisoned skis, snow-filled gloves, even the linings of his ski boots, which he ditched because they were frozen solid.
Witkowski has been working as a dishwasher, but won't be able to do that for a while. He hopes instead to return to Central Washington University and earn a degree - in what, he's not sure.