3 Climbers Reported Missing On Mount Hood - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/11/06-PORTLAND, Oregon

3 Climbers Reported Missing On Mount Hood

The summit of Mount Hood, Oregon, sits 11, 235 feet above sea level. The summit of Mount Hood, Oregon, sits 11, 235 feet above sea level.

Rescue teams headed up the flanks of Mount Hood on Monday to search for three climbers reported missing in heavy snow, the Hood River County sheriff's office said.

The mother of one of the men said he had called his son on a cell phone to say he was stranded in a snow cave just below the summit of the 11,235-foot peak while his companions went for help.

"From the conversation, it left us very concerned for the person's welfare," Hood River County Chief Deputy Jerry Brown said.

Snow was falling heavily Monday at Timberline Lodge, where the three were to have met friends on Friday or Saturday, and a winter storm watch was in effect for the area at least through Tuesday. The Oregon Air National Guard had a helicopter on standby in case the weather improved.

The route the climbers took is very difficult, with slopes of 50 or 60 degrees and occasional sheer walls of ice, said Steve Rollins, a rescue leader with Portland Mountain Rescue, which sent two teams up the mountain.

"There is more than 2,000 feet of that terrain," he told The Associated Press.

Rollins said conditions on the mountain were deadly. There is "very hard ice, coupled with very high winds. You have a lot of snow on very hard ice. There is no easy way off the mountain," he said.

Authorities described the three men as experienced but said none had climbed Mount Hood before. About 10,000 people a year start for the summit and on average 20 to 25 of them need to be rescued.

A note that the three missing climbers left at a Forest Service station detailing their plans said they were taking "minimal gear," Doug Jones, a permit specialist with the Mount Hood National Forest, told the Oregonian.

The trio left their car on Wednesday to climb the difficult north side of Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest peak, and had planned to spend two nights on the mountain.

One of the climbers was Kelly James, his mother, Lou Ann Cameron of Bryant, Arkansas, said in a telephone interview Monday.

She said James called his son, Jason, from inside a snow cave on the mountain's north face Sunday afternoon, saying the other two men had gone back down the mountain to seek help.

James said he felt confident the men would return, but Jason later said his father "didn't sound good," Cameron said.

Authorities were unable to re-establish contact with James and there had been no sign of the two other climbers.

"I'm just scared he was hurt and the other guys went to get help," Cameron said.

Cameron described her 48-year-old son, who lives in Dallas, as an avid climber who has scaled Mount McKinley and peaks in South America and in Europe.

It was the second time in less than a month that someone was reported missing in snowy, isolated areas of Oregon. James Kim of San Francisco died of hypothermia after leaving his wife and their two small daughters in their snow-bound car in the Coast Range while he hiked out in search of help. His wife and children were rescued.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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