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Rescuers on Mt Hood find Snowcave

Submitted By: John McNamee on Dec 17, 2006


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Rescuers searching for three missing climbers told CNN Sunday afternoon that they have identified a "snow cave" where the three men may be located. According to Mount Hood River Sheriff's Department spokesman Gerry Tiffany, a Chinook helicopter is now focusing in on a target area where climber Kelly James is possibly sheltered.

CNN


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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jan 6, 2007
By RedRockRat
Dec 18, 2006

One climber found dead in snow cave on Mount Hood late Sunday evening
Favorable weather predicted for Monday as search for other climbers goes on.
The body was found inside the second of two snow caves rescuers searched Sunday afternoon, and will not be brought down from the mountain for identification until Monday.

Our hearts go out.....keep the families and friends in your thoughts.

By Ron Olsen
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 18, 2006

From the New York Times:

"Although the authorities would not name the climber whose body was found, Ben James, a brother of Kelly James, who traveled to Oregon on Friday from his home in Louisiana, said in an interview late Sunday that officials had told his family that Kelly James was the deceased climber."

R.I.P.

By solo sister
From: NC
Dec 18, 2006

As someone who has also lost their beloved brother to a climbing accident this year (See "Fatality at Tahquitz Rock"), I would like to extend my sincere condolences to Ben and Frank James, both brothers of Kelly James, and assure them of our whole family's prayers for their family as they begin to walk through this valley. May you experience the comfort, peace and hope that only Jesus Christ can give you through these dark hours and in the coming days. God bless you. -Your Sister in Christ

I tried to post a link to Frank James' site (hinessight.blogs.com) on the thread "Religious Tolerance or Lack Therof..." but it seems those 21 pages have been locked by the administrators. Interestingly enough, it seems Frank James is experiencing criticism for vocalizing that his faith will get him through this tragedy: (hinessight.blogs.com/hinessight/2006/12/whats_god_got_t.html>>>.

By Steve Line
Dec 18, 2006

Yes it is sad to hear of Kelly's death and that the other two are probably lost too.

Does anybody know the route they were climbing?

By Chris Owen
Administrator
From: La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake
Dec 18, 2006

According to CNN sources it's the North Face Route RH Gully.

www.mountainproject.com/v/oregon/mt_hood/105792945

By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 19, 2006

I thought I heard they climbed the Cooper Spur?

What I don't understand is why the two climbers who headed down to get help went down the north side, rather than the easier standard route.

By Ron Olsen
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 19, 2006

George,

From a KATU news report:

"[Sheriff Joe] Wampler said it appears the three climbers succeeded in reaching the summit from the difficult north side and started go down the easier south side. They apparently tried to pass through a rock-and-ice formation known as the Pearly Gates, but did not find it."

Also, from Oregonlive.com:

"Wednesday, Dec. 6: Three climbers leave their car at the Tilly Jane trailhead near the Cooper Spur ski area, with plans to climb Mount Hood...They intend to spend at least two nights on the mountain and meet friends at Timberline Lodge [on the south side]."

So it looks as if their original plan was to descend the south side of the mountain.

By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 19, 2006

Thanks for the clarification, Ron. I know that in a white-out with high winds, it's easy to go the wrong way.

By Paul Huebner
From: Portage, WI
Dec 19, 2006

I climbed Mts. Shuksan and Baker with Nikko in 2003. He wanted me to teach him to lead rock this spring in the Black Hills. I just don't understand why he and Brian left to go for help in the conditions they faced. I know it's easy to second guess them, and I have no idea what they had for gear and gas to melt snow. I know Nikko was into going as light as he could. But if they just would've stayed put all 3 may have survived and been rescued last Sat. My heart goes out to all 3 families. It looks like the search is about over for now.

By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Dec 19, 2006

I agree about the "stay together" comment.

It is easy to second guess without knowing the whole situation, but there is a reasonable chance if the three of them stayed in the cave together that they would all be alive.

A team working together in a snow cave can survive for a long time. One guy alone in the cave (without a stove?) and two guys descending in a raging storm is a different story. Kelly James was obviously injured (from the news report), and the extent of those injuries would have been the critical piece for me in making the descent/stay-put decision.

Although I personally haven't faced this situation climbing, I have faced it on extended, remote kayaking trips - and I've learned through experience that splitting up a team generally leads to more problems than it solves.

I'm sure the team on Mt. Hood had reasons for choosing the actions they did, and none of us know the extent of Kelly James' injuries, but leaving an injured climber alone in a snow cave is a scary proposition. I suspect the two climbers who descended didn't have knowledge of how horrible the weather was to become.

Let us all hope none of us face such a difficult decision.

My heart goes out to everyone involved. A tragic loss.

Andy

By Tradsplatter
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 21, 2006

Lesson learned, when conditions hit the fan like they did - hunker in your bunker till nature co-operates and you might have better odds than these unfortunate souls did. All too easy to second guess from comfort of nice, warm home though.

By G.McCay
From: San Diego, CA
Jan 5, 2007

I have yet to hear anything mentioned about Avalanche Transponder Beacons. Were the guys carrying one up on Mt. Hood? I think this would have been an invaluable tool for their survival.

GEM

By Buff Johnson
Jan 6, 2007

Unknown as to the beacons. I don't see any assistance these devices would have offered other than to aid in a recovery during the spring; the ground teams were unable to safely reach any positions due to weather & avy danger to make a rescue response & evacuation viable.