Mt. Hood climber's body found

After discovery near summit, search goes on for 2 still missing

December 18, 2006|By New York Times News Service

SEATTLE --The body of a climber lost on Oregon's Mount Hood was found yesterday in a snow cave near the summit, a week after rescuers began an intense but frustrated search effort complicated by brutal storms that hammered the Pacific Northwest.

The identity of the man was not immediately released, nor was it clear what had become of two fellow climbers who set out with him last weekend to climb the 11,235-foot peak, part of the Cascade Range.

The last contact anyone had with the three climbers -- two men from Dallas and a third from Brooklyn, N.Y. -- was on Dec. 10. Kelly James, one of the Dallas residents, spoke to his wife by cell phone that day and told her that he was stranded but taking shelter in a snow cave near the summit. James told his wife that the other two men were trying to descend the mountain to find help.

The authorities said that the body of the climber found yesterday was in a cave about 300 feet from the summit, with footprints leading to it from another cave they initially searched. The first cave, which had been marked with ropes in a Y shape to note its location, contained items including a sleeping bag, ice pick and shovel. The authorities could not immediately explain why there were at least two caves.

"We remain optimistic, we remain hopeful," Capt. Mike Braibish of the Oregon National Guard told reporters after the body was found. "We continue to proceed with this as a rescue for the two remaining climbers."

The search for the climbers was slowed by weather that devastated parts of the Pacific Northwest. On Thursday and Friday, a brutal storm brought wind gusts over 80 mph in areas just outside Seattle and over 110 mph in the Cascade Mountains and Oregon's Coast Range, knocking out power to more than a million homes and businesses. At least four people died and dozens more were sickened after the storm from inhaling carbon monoxide from grills used to cook inside and generators used for power.

Yesterday, as live television images of rescue helicopters hovering over snow-capped Mount Hood riveted viewers across the country, hundreds of thousands of people living in western Washington and Oregon remained without power and heat -- and without the expectation of getting it back soon.

Power company officials say it could be several more days before power is restored to many places farther inland from Seattle, including heavily wooded towns such as North Bend, Carnation, and Woodinville that have grown quickly in recent years.

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