To the climbing enthusiasts who frequent web sites like CascadeClimbers.com and Summitpost.org, Cooke was known as “fuggedaboudit,” the name clearly a fond nod to his Brooklyn address.
But it is his brief posts on the Hood attempt that have prompted much scrutiny in online mountaineering forums, suggesting that the three climbers — though experienced veterans who among them could claim climbs in the Andes and Alaska — had plenty of questions about their Hood ascent attempt.
On Sept. 17, Cooke began a post on CascadeClimbers.com with an apology, writing, “Since I’ve never been there before, pardon what may be stupid questions in advance. I tried to buy the guidebook but it’s out of print.”
At the news conference, sheriff Wampler said evidence suggests that the three had been “lightly equipped,” adding later, “I think that they knew where they were at, but, you know, at nighttime, not ever being there before, there was some disorientation involved in this.”
As the dramatic search and rescue operation unfolded on the mountain over the past week, much of it televised live and coast-to-coast, mountaineering forums have been deluged by those offering sympathy to the families of the missing climbers, searchers reporting back on conditions on the mountain, and plenty of speculation about what exactly might have happened to the three.
“They never really said exactly what line they were climbing, but they asked for any beta (information) on the routes,” wrote the poster. “They asked for any info on how to get down onto the Eliot (glacier) since they would be doing it in the dark, asked how safe I thought it was traveling on the glacier, and wanted a guess on how long it would take them to reach the schrund (the crevasse where a glacier pulls away from an icecap) at the base of the (North Face) gullies.”
But the three seemed confident about their trek, the poster continues, writing, “I had the impression the routes were well within their abilities...They seemed like great guys. Offered to fill my water bottle and offered all of us cocoa. Had the cabin fired up and warm and seemed very enthused about their climb.”
It’s not unusual for serious climbers to post questions about their routes, looking for the most current information from other climbers, officials with Portland’s Mazamas mountaineering group and others said.
Familiarity with the route up Mount Hood might have helped the climbers, Ruef said, but only to a point.