3 Mt. Hood climbers, dog rescued; all OK
GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. – Rescuers reached three stranded climbers on Mount Hood Monday, finding them in good condition after they spent a night huddled with their dog to stave off the whipping wind and snow 7,400 feet up the peak.
The three, two women a man and a man in their 30s, were fed hot food and given warm clothing before being led down the mountain with their dog, a black Labrador named Velvet.
They were cold and roughed up from their fall off a ledge the day before, but generally in good shape, authorities said.
“I imagine the dog is better off than they are,” said Lt. Nick Watt of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
Watt said it would take the climbers until nightfall to finish their descent from the mountain’s east face. Authorities in a tracked snow vehicle were trying to reach them part of the way.
Rescuers had talked to the climbers by cell phone and tracked their mountain locator unit before reaching them at 10:47 a.m. PST.
“The most important part of this rescue is that they did everything right,” Watt said in a news conference.
The climbers spent the night huddled in two sleeping bags and a tarp in the White River Canyon, about 7,400 feet up the 11,239-foot mountain, Oregon’s highest.
“There’s always danger of exposure on Mount Hood,” said Russell Gubele, coordinating communications for the rescue operation.
Rescue teams battled winds up to 70 mph and blowing snow trying to locate the three climbers. The teams made it close to the climbers overnight but decided to wait until daylight Monday because they could not see anything, Gubele said.
The three climbers were members of an eight-person party that set out on Saturday, camped on the mountain that night, and had started back down on Sunday when they ran into bad weather, officials said.
As they were descending, the three slipped off a ledge at about 8,300 feet. Someone in the party used a cell phone to place an emergency call to authorities.
“My understanding is that they are experienced rock climbers, but not necessarily experienced in mountain climbing,” Gubele said.
The five other members of the their climbing party were rescued Sunday and taken down to Timberline Lodge, a ski resort at the 6,000-foot level of Mount Hood, and all are reported in good condition, the sheriff’s office said in an e-mail.
Sgt. Sean Collinson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said that the two women rescued Monday appeared to have suffered some bumps and bruises, and that their male companion was in good condition. He said all three “were in fairly good spirits when we talked to them on the phone.”
“They’re wet, shivering and cold,” said Jim Strovink, a Clackamas County detective.
Watt said their use of a locating device may have saved them from a worse fate.
“That’s why it is a rescue, not a recovery,” Watt said, alluding to three climbers who went missing on Mount Hood in December.
Then, search teams scoured Mount Hood for days in the hopes of finding a group of missing climbers alive. The bodies of Brian Hall, of Dallas, and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke, of New York, have not been found. Another climber in their group, Kelly James, of Dallas, died of hypothermia.
In the past 25 years, more than 35 climbers have died on the mountain, one of the most frequently climbed in the world.