Climbers walk to ambulance, taken off Mount Hood after long, cold night
GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. – Three climbers and their dog rescued from Mount Hood were taken away in an ambulance late Monday after tumbling off a ledge, spending a night huddled against ferocious wind and snow, and then walking much of the way down the slope.”We’re soaking wet and freezing,” said one of two rescued women as she walked from a tracked snow vehicle to the ambulance. Authorities have not yet released their names.Rescuers using an electronic locating device found the three climbers and their black Labrador, Velvet, in the White River Canyon Monday morning, and hiked with them for some distance down the east flank of the 11,239-foot mountain. Lower down, they climbed aboard the tracked vehicle.”The dog probably saved their lives” by lying across them during the long night, said Erik Brom, a member of the Portland Mountain Rescue team that found them. He described the wind in the canyon as “hellacious.”The two women left the snow vehicle first, followed by the man and the dog. The three climbers, said to be in their 30s, boarded the ambulance, and Velvet leapt in after them.
In addition to the dog, who provided warmth and comfort, rescuers attributed the happy outcome of the adventure to the climbers’ use of an electronic Mountain Locator Unit that guided searchers to their exact position.”The most important part of this rescue is that they did everything right,” Lt. Nick Watt of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office told a news conference at Timberline Lodge, a ski resort at 6,000 feet.The three were in a party of eight that set out for the summit on Saturday, camped on the mountain that night, and then began to come back down on Sunday when they ran into bad weather, officials said.As they were descending at about 8,300 feet in elevation on the mountain, the three slipped off a ledge. Someone in the party used a cell phone to place an emergency call to authorities. Rescue officials maintained regular cell phone contact overnight with the three who had fallen.”My understanding is that they are experienced rock climbers, but not necessarily experienced in mountain climbing,” said Russell Gubele, coordinating communications for the rescue operation.
Their five companion climbers made it off the mountain Sunday, and were reported in good condition.At a news conference at Timberline Lodge, one of the five, Trevor Liston of Portland, said he saw the three fall but didn’t say how it happened.Battling winds up to 70 mph and blowing snow, rescue teams had worked through the night trying to locate the three climbers, who holed up overnight in the White River Canyon at about 7,400 feet, Gubele said.Brom, a member of the team that found them, said the climbers had traveled miles from the site of the fall, descending.Teams made it close to the missing climbers overnight, but decided to wait until daylight Monday because they couldn’t see anything, Gubele said. Rescuers moved cautiously during the night because of “very severe avalanche danger,” he said.
Watt emphasized the climbers’ use of a locating device.”That’s why it is a rescue, not a recovery,” Watt said, alluding to three climbers who went missing on Mount Hood in December.In the December incident, authorities searched for days, but were able to recover the body of only one climber, Kelly James of Dallas, who died of hypothermia. The bodies of Brian Hall of Dallas and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke of New York have not been found.In the past 25 years, more than 35 climbers have died on Mount Hood, one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world.
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