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Latest Mt. Hood search updates

by Teresa Bell

Posted on December 18, 2006 at 9:34 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:39 PM

The following are updates from a news conference regarding the ongoing search for two missing climbers on Mt. Hood. The third climber's body was found on the mountain Sunday.

9 a.m. Monday

According to Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler:

The two climbers who have not yet been found were in an extremely dangerous, unstable area with a 2,500 foot precipice; authorities believe the men may have fallen.

The search has narrowed to the area around the caves found on Sunday. The cave area is above and between the Eliot Glacier head wall and the Cooper Spur route, commonly known as the gulleys. There is a 2,500 foot drop there and a lot of avalanche activity in that area. The area is too dangerous for ground crews.

Because the search is narrowing, authorities will be able to scale it back.

Good weather conditions today -- clear and sunny. Crews will head up the mountain to recover Kelly James' body while other searchers keep looking for the two men. The crews will be airlifted to the summit like they were on Sunday.

Searchers described how they think events unraveled, based on footprints and other information: They believe the three climbers left Tilly Jane and climbed the right gulley to the summit and once at the summit, went south on Summit Ridge and were maybe looking for the entrance to the Pearly Gates, which is the route they had planned to take back down. Probably because of the poor weather, they didn’t get down that route and instead broke off the east side of mountain, dropped down 300 feet near Newton Clark Glacier and dug a cave in which all three men spent the night Friday. They appeared to have dug the cave with a shovel. Brian Hall and Jerry Cooke likely left the cave location Saturday morning and went back north to the summit ridge, where they built another snow cave. We can assume that was the last known location of the two climbers.

When Kelly James made a cell phone call to his family from the snow cave, he basically told them that the descent from where they had climbed was impossible.

When his body was found, it was with the cell phone, which was full of water and no longer works.