Monday, December 18, 2006

Grim outlook for 2 Hood climbers

Oregon sheriff Joe Wampler said today he and others fear two climbers still missing on Mount Hood may have plummeted to their deaths near the summit.

“If they did not get in a hole somewhere, we might be beyond survivability periods. You can last a long time in a hole. So we are looking for a hole,” Wampler said.

Fellow climber Kelly James’ body was discovered Sunday and taken off the mountain
today for medical examination, said Capt. Mike Braibish of the Oregon National Guard.

Wampler said climbing equipment found on the mountain — including two slings and two aluminum anchors driven into the snow — led rescuers to believe Brian Hall and
Jerry “Nikko” Cooke had tried to secure themselves to the steep slope. That was the last sign of the two.

The spot on the 11,239-foot mountain where the two men appear to have vanished is commonly known as “the gullies,” with a 60-degree slope and a 2,500-foot drop-off. Thirteen deaths over the past 40 years have been recorded in the same area.

The two dug a snow cave on a steep slope about 300 feet from the cave where James was found. They apparently used snow anchors to secure themselves to the mountain as bad weather raged around them, the sheriff said.

“At some point they were standing there clipped into something, probably because it was so windy there. I mean this is a really steep, dangerous place on the mountain,” Wampler said.

Two ice axes, a glove, some rope and a piece of sleeping mat were found along with the slings and snow anchors.

But he also had hope the two could still be found safe inside a snow cave. “We’re still looking for that cave in the snow, that hole in the snow” he said.

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