Derek Tyndall, 21, and Thomas Dale, 20, were lost in a snowstorm Sunday when they were descending from a camp about 10,000 feet up. They used a cellphone to call 911 and said they were digging a snow cave for protection.
"The weather changed and we thought one thing looked like where we went and looped around, took too hard a left and put us in the middle of a 3-stage cliff," Tyndall said.
They weren't equipped to stay overnight, however they checked in Monday morning before their cellphone died, saying they were cold and wet, but OK.
"The scariest moment was waking up the next morning being like, we are soaking wet, this is not good," Dale said.
The men were only a few miles from the Paradise ranger station, but "it's not a straight shot" and conditions were treacherous, with snow up to 4 feet deep, said Lee Snook with Mt. Rainier National Park. Rescuers decided the two could snowshoe out with them, and the group began the trek to the station, which is at the 5,400-foot level.
Rescuers spotted the pair Monday at about the 7,000-foot level below McClure Rock on the lower Paradise glacier. They were about a half-mile from the two - close enough to wave - but were forced back by nightfall and dangerous conditions.
Thirty rescuers working in five-member teams went out Tuesday through snow 2- to 4-feet deep, Snook said. It was so soft members had to take turns "swimming through the snow" to break a trail.
It took searchers about two hours to reach the men from the Paradise ranger station, and they were back at the station before nightfall.
"(Our) toes are a little cold still, but it's mind over matter," Tyndall said.