Three years ago, Lynn Lippert was near the top of Mt. Olympus taking one of those epic shots you can’t wait to show your friends.
As her camera clicked at the edge of an icy crevasse, Lynn lost her balance. She caught herself, but her camera wasn’t so lucky. It dove deep into the crevasse.
“Even if we could have seen it … it would have been impossible to reach,” she said.
Miraculously, Lynn will get to show off those photos off after all. That’s thanks to a bit of global warming, a high-climbing Port Orchard dentist and a Port Orchard Facebook group frequented by a man with “a very particular set of skills.”
The camera’s happenstance rescue mission began when Chris Mueller, who has a dental practice on Bay Street, was recently trekking up the same route as Lynn.
The glacier had apparently receded, as it has been doing at a fast rate in recent years, allowing a glimpse of Lynn’s long-lost camera. Chris managed to pull out the “ice-encrusted” thing. Inside, he found lots of sunny photos of smiling people hiking, biking and climbing. It was unclear who owned it, but Chris tried “a total shot in the dark”: he posted a few of the photos on the Port Orchard Facebook group’s page.
Here’s his post:
The page is the kind of place people share (a lot of) backyard bird photos, ask for plumber recommendations, sell old hedge trimmers, or poll Port Orchard residents about whether or not Fred Meyer sells bulk flax seed (rather than, you know, actually calling Fred Meyer). It’s not the kind of place you go looking for mountain climbers who might be missing cameras. But what the group does have going for it is a lot of active members (12,651 at last count).
Within seconds of Chris’ Saturday night post, people started re-sharing (more than 1,800 times), alerting the local press, offering wild guesses and a few dead-end tips.
Enter Chance Richardson, a member of the group and one of Chris’ patients. Unleashing Internet sleuthing skills the NSA would admire, Chance needed just under 30 minutes to identify three people in the photos, including Lynn.
He even provided helpful links to cross-referenced photos, blog posts and Facebook profiles.
“How did you figure this out?” Chris asked in a post. “Do you know them? Or are you just crazy smart?
Chance was coy at first, offering up this meme from the movie Taken:
Later, he explained that a shirt worn by Lynn in one of the photos hinted at a charity climb for the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center.
“The shirt was a good start, (and) somehow I ended up on the Hutch donor site” where Lynn was featured, Chance wrote. “Then I compared around 15 pictures … to ensure I wasn’t going to make a fool of myself.”
By Sunday morning, Chris had received a response via Facebook from Lynn, who lives in Portland and is in her 70s. She’s also a bit of a local climbing legend, apparently fighting off cancer nearly as frequently as she summits peaks. She was raising thousands of dollars for cancer research during the climb when she lost her camera.
Here’s the exchange between Chris and Lynn:
People in the Port Orchard Facebook group heaped praise on Chance, but he gave credit to his dentist.
“Best dentist ever folks!” he wrote. “He even removes debris from the cavities of mountains!”