Snow cave survival best hope for missing climbers

Snow cave survival best hope for missing climbers

Snow cave survival best hope for missing climbers

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by David Krough

kgw.com

Posted on December 15, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 15 at 5:23 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Two climbers missing on Mt. Hood since Friday had only a one percent chance of survival, according to one medical expert. Dr. Teri Schmidt, a former Medical Director for American Medical Response, made the grim estimate at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. 

According to medical experts, the odds of survival in the mountain winter dependson climbers' ability to stay warm and dry, and on their ability to dig a snow cave or create some kind of shelter from the weather.

Emergency room Doctor Max Reitz at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center said Anthony Vietti and Katie Nolan could still be alive four days after they disappeared on the climb early Friday morning. But they would have to have enough fuel, food and dry clothing to survive in a snow cave, as blizzard conditions and temperatures in the 20s hampered search efforts.

The pair's climbing partner, 26-year-old Luke Gullberg, was found dead Saturday. An autopsy showed he had fallen, then succumbed to hypothermia.

Searchers said they continued to hold out hope they would find the two alive, despite  whiteout conditions that stalled the search Tuesday.

"The odds of survival are quite low at this point, if they've been out that long and one climber has already succumbed (to hypothermia)," Reitz said.

He added that hypothermia can take longer to set in on the mountain than in cold water, but the effect of disorientation can quickly lead to poor decision making.

"At some point, you get confused ... and lose the ability to take care of yourself," he said.

Princeton.edu: Hypothermia signs

Crews were conducting avalanche assessments of the area Tuesday afternoon. Forecasters said at least two feet of new snow could fall in the next coupl of days. Check the forecast

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