Albrecht doing fine after rescue

Published 10:27 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When Mark Albrecht emerged from the North Cascades National Park unscathed in June, it naturally came as a relief to his family and to him.

“I’m doing well,” said Albrecht. “People at work were pretty concerned about me. Just plugging away at things.”

Albrecht, who embarked on his first solo backpacking trip a week earlier, had just completed his first week of orientation with Everett, Wash.-based Aviation Technical Services, and was scheduled to begin his first official day of work two days later.

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But, his new job held two drawbacks. It was a complete change of scenery from his home of West Lafayette, Ind.; and Selma, where his father, Everette Albrecht, grew up and his grandmother, Mary Albrecht, lives. His work schedule was the other drawback, as it afforded little time to attend church at conventional times. His four-day shifts are followed by three-day layovers, but this layover began on a Monday.

So, he entered the park with the plan to spend two days with God. Mike Albrecht became familiar with the park through Mike Zachman, a family friend who lives about 30 minutes away from Albrecht’s new home.

“I decided I’d go ahead and spend my weekend with God regardless,” said Albrecht. “It was my first solo backpacking trip, so I was already pretty uneasy.”

The first two days went smoothly, but a dense fog rolled in the third day that limited Albrecht’s visibility and his sense of direction. The snow and 7,000-foot altitude complicated matters further, as a single misstep would doom him.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got a map, compass and it’s pretty early, so as long as I go slow and easy and don’t do anything stupid, I’ll be fine,” said Albrecht.

After a handful of attempts to find his way, Albrecht became disoriented, and slipped on the ice and slid down a portion of the mountain. He landed on an avalanche, and that’s when his Eagle Scout background took over. He found a flat spot on an avalanche, pitched his tent, rationed his food and waited for the fog to lift.

“His dad and he have done a lot of playing in the woods,” said Mary Albrecht. “He was at home there and didn’t worry about anything until clouds engulfed him.”

The fog lifted Thursday, but Albrecht was not declared missing until Friday. Before search parties could begin scouring the mountain, the fog rolled in again.

Albrecht said a part of him was terrified of his situation, but another part carried an “amazing peace.” The information he received after a hiker spotted him and told him how to get out on Sunday may have altered that peace slightly. Albrecht said his family, who came to Selma to wait out the result with Mary Albrecht, was about to fly out to Washington because they figured he was dead. Park rangers told him about 10 percent of people in his situation survive. Both facts were sobering to Albrecht.

“As the weeks have gone by, it’s opened my eyes to what a miracle it was that I got out,” he said.

Despite the difficulties and worry the trip caused Albrecht and his family, he said the events of that week had their desired impact on his relationship with God.

He recalled praying that someone would get a vision of where he was on the mountain and search that area. The day he was rescued, a family friend approached his father and told him she had had a vision of Mark Albrecht’s location. Albrecht later found out the vision was eerily similar to his actual location.

“It is mind-blowing to see God answer that prayer like that,” he said.