Missing Climbers - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

12/20/06

Missing Climbers

The search for those two missing climbers scaled back this morning.  The weather is expected to make ground and aerial searches difficult.

The sheriff near Mount Hood, Oregon says photos from a camera with the body of Kelly James gives him reason to worry that the men were traveling light and may not be prepared to survive the extremes.

For more than a 100 hours they scoured this mountain with blackhawks, a Chinook and a C-130.

"Now, the big search probably is over," says Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler.

Dozens of rescue climbers have been ordered to stand down and the helicopters, grounded.

Search teams recovered the body of Kelly James. But there is still no sign of his two climbing partners.  Angela Hall, the sister of Brian Hall said, "And we also ask those thousands of families around the world, who have so graciously and passionately offered their prayers to Brian and Nikko, to continue to pray for them ...now more than ever."

Through letters they left behind and evidence in the ice, this story emerges: James, Brian Hall and Nikko Cooke climbed the more challenging north side of Mt. Hood, packing lightly for a quick climb. They summited the mountain about 11 days ago but at some point, James dislocated his shoulder.

"I think an injury threw that schedule all off. And it left 'em in a position of 'Now what are we gonna do?' and desperation," said Sheriff Wampler.

Search teams found evidence that they dug a snow cave and huddled together. And then maybe the next morning Hall and Cooke grabbed ice axes and left the cave to get help.

"Where did they go?" asked Sheriff Wampler.

It's a question they can't answer. There are places to hide and a crevice  that drops 2500 feet. Already covered by new snow, the footprints just disappear.

That doesn't mean they're giving up. An avalanche team will investigate the area. Fixed-wing -airplanes can still fly by. But even the sheriff is asking the question, how long can someone survive in this environment?

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