Search for climbers ends for day in Ore.
High winds, snow hamper rescuers on Mount Hood
COOPER SPUR, Ore. -- Rescue teams equipped with ice axes, ropes, and other high-altitude gear were once again frustrated yesterday in their efforts since the weekend to find three climbers on Oregon's highest mountain.
After battling high winds and blowing snow, search teams broke for the day without success.
An Oregon National Guard helicopter was able to survey the lower half of the mountain, but bad weather kept the crew from getting much higher than the 6,000-foot level on the 11,239-foot peak. Crews began coming off the mountain in the afternoon to conclude their search by dark.
Rescue teams planned to debrief and map out a strategy for today, said Deputy Gary Tiffany, spokesman for the Hood River sheriff's office, which has been coordinating the search.
More snow and high winds were expected today, according to the National Weather Service.
"Right now, they're dealing with 50- to 60-mile-an-hour winds in the area they're searching and blowing snow. It really cuts down their visibility," Joseph Wampler, sheriff for Hood River County, said earlier yesterday.
Rescue teams have been combing the upper elevations since Monday in search of the three experienced climbers.
Winds weren't as gusty yesterday and snowfall wasn't as heavy, but the weather conditions were bad enough to once again frustrate efforts to locate the climbers.
The last anyone heard from the climbers was on Sunday, when Kelly James, 48, used his cellphone from a snow cave to say the group was in trouble. He said his two companions -- Brian Hall, 37, also of Dallas, and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, 36, of New York City -- had gone for help.
Officials have not been able to reach James on his cellphone since then, Wampler said, but officials narrowed the location through cellphone signals. Searchers say they believe James's snow cave is near the summit, on the northeast side, but it is unclear where the other two climbers might be.
Two more storms are expected this week, with one beginning early today, the National Weather Service said.
Families of the missing men have flown to Hood River to await word on their loved ones. They include Frank James of Orlando, Fla., Kelly's older brother.
Frank James said at a news conference that it wasn't clear from the 4-minute call his brother placed to family members on Sunday whether he was injured.
"Today's the day for courage and for prayers. Courage can help us see through this snowstorm, and our prayers can literally move mountains," he said.