New storm approaching, 2 climbers still missing - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/19/06-HOOD RIVER, Oregon

New storm approaching, 2 climbers still missing

A Chinook helicopter flies back Monday from a search mission on Oregon's Mount Hood. A Chinook helicopter flies back Monday from a search mission on Oregon's Mount Hood.
Kelly James, left, was found dead in a snow cave on Sunday. Brian Hall remains missing. Kelly James, left, was found dead in a snow cave on Sunday. Brian Hall remains missing.
Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, shown with his wife, is still missing. Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, shown with his wife, is still missing.

 With hope fading and a new snowstorm approaching, rescuers focused Tuesday on a small area of Mount Hood, looking for clues that might lead them to two stranded climbers.

The body of a third climber, Kelly James, was removed from the 11,239-foot mountain Monday night.

Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler said Tuesday that a camera was recovered along with James' body, and the pictures it contained were proving very valuable to investigators.

But the pictures also were cause for concern, he said. "After developing those pictures, looking what they had with them, I'm pretty concerned about how long somebody can last out there."

The plan Tuesday called for fixed-wing aircraft to fly over the area looking for clues, or better yet, the missing climbers: Brian Hall, 37, of Dallas, Texas, and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, 36, of Brooklyn, New York.

"We're still looking for those little clues so that we can make plans to move ground teams into certain areas if we need to, and also maintain the opportunity for Brian and Nikko to stick their head up out of that hole up there someplace and self-rescue themselves, and we want to be there to see that if that happens," Wampler said.

Early Tuesday, ground search teams were standing by, waiting for assignments based on what was spotted from the aircraft.

Wampler also was preparing to send an avalanche team, made up of experts at probing deep snow on the mountainside.

"There is a chance that these guys, instead of falling -- which is one scenario -- they've been covered up by snow, that they have crawled into a crag or a crack to get out of the wind, and stuff has come on top of them, and they're still there waiting for us to come get them," Wampler said.

Weather was a major concern, with a new storm expected to hit the area around mid-day Wednesday.

"It's going to put us on hold, literally, for a while," Wampler said. "So that's why we'll keep flying, we'll keep people up there. We're going to try to get this avalanche thing in place and done before that moisture gets here."

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said the storm was expected to hit Mount Hood about 2 p.m. Wednesday (5 p.m. ET), bringing rain at lower elevations, icing between 5,000 and 6,000 feet, and snow above that.

'A needle in a haystack'

The search area had been narrowed to an area between the snow cave where James' body was found and an area directly below.

James had called his family from the snow cave on December 10, explaining that his two climbing companions had left him to get help. The three had begun their trek two days earlier.

His body was found Sunday. James had suffered a dislocated shoulder, said Wampler.

Searchers found some equipment at a second snow cave where authorities believe all three spent a cold night on December 8.

"These guys left a trail better than most, so we kind of knew where to start looking," Wampler said. "Looking for three people on a very huge mountain is a needle in a haystack."

The Hood River County Sheriff's Office estimates it spent roughly $5,000 a day for the first three days and about $6,500 a day after that, The Associated Press reported. But that's only part of what will be become the final price tag, the AP said.

James, a 48-year-old landscape architect from Dallas, Texas, was an experienced climber, his family said. He had conquered some of the world's toughest peaks and loved climbing dearly.

Source: CNN

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