Climbers' Kin Cling To Hope As Storm Rages - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/15/06-Cooper Spur, OR

Climbers' Kin Cling To Hope As Storm Rages

Karen and Frank James, wife and brother of lost climber Kelly James, express hope. Karen and Frank James, wife and brother of lost climber Kelly James, express hope.

Relatives of three men missing in bitter weather on Mount Hood comforted each other and held out hope Friday that the trio survived, eight days after the lightly equipped men left for a two-day ascent.

Winds were expected to gust to 100 mph Friday morning in the latest of a string of storms to hit the 11,239-foot mountain, and forecasters said rescuers' next shot to find the men probably would be Saturday.

"They're not quitters," said climber Kelly James' wife, Karen, as she locked hands in a single grip with climber Brian Hall's sister, Angela, and Michaela Cooke, wife of Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, of New York.

"The most important thing about them is their spirit that they all share, and that they, they know what to do, and they plan so meticulously so that they can carry out the adventures that they have done all over the world," Hall's sister said.

Kelly James, who like Hall is from Dallas, was believed to be holed up in a snow cave near the top, and the other two were thought to have tried to descend for help.

Kelly James, who like Hall is from Dallas, was believed to be holed up in a snow cave near the top, and the other two were thought to have tried to descend for help.

A signal from James' cell phone placed him between 10,000 feet and 11,000 feet Sunday when he made a four-minute distress call to his family.

"He described his condition. He was very coherent," Karen James said. "He did not sound good."

On Thursday, authorities said James' phone was on briefly as recently as Tuesday. But for more than two days the phone had not responded to engineers' signals, sent every five minutes.

In response to its "pings," T-Mobile got a return signal from James' phone early Tuesday, indicating the handset was back on, when it had been off, authorities said Thursday.

The Hood River County sheriff's office initially said the signal was returned around 10:55 p.m. Tuesday, but later the phone company said the last signal returned from the handset came more than 20 hours earlier.

The sequence suggested James, 48, may have turned his phone off to conserve battery power, a possibility that brought hope to family members gathered near the mountain.

"My heart was in my throat when I heard that, because if it's true it means Kelly is alive, and he has his wits about him," his brother, Frank James of Orlando, Florida, said at a news conference Thursday.

Harsh conditions have thwarted rescue efforts since early in the week. Family members said Friday they've become close with members of the search teams as everyone has waited out the weather.

"We've become a family with these people," Karen James said. "And we know that they're just as passionate about finding our guys, and one climber-rescuer said with every step they take, they take with their heart. And we know that. That's what keeps us going."

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

 
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