- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

12:08 p.m.

HOOD RIVER, Ore. (AP) — A missing climber found dead in a snow cave on Mount Hood was identified as the Dallas man who had placed a distress call to relatives a little more than a week ago, a person close to the family said today.

Searchers found the cave yesterday near the area located by signals from the cell phone of Kelly James, who made a four-minute call to his family Dec. 10, said Jessica Nunez, a spokeswoman for the climber’s family.

A recovery team was expected today to retrieve the body, which remained on the mountain over night because darkness made it too dangerous to retrieve. The search for Mr. James’ two companions was to focus on the treacherous north side of Oregon’s highest mountain.

The discovery of Mr. James’ body followed a long week of hope in the search on the 11,239-foot mountain.

Family members had relied on intense religious faith along with confidence that the trio’s extensive mountaineering experience would save them from a week of blizzards and single-digit temperatures that hampered search teams on the mountain and in aircraft.

Mr. James, 48, had told his family that his climbing party was in trouble and that Brian Hall, 37, also of Dallas, and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke, 36, of New York City, had headed back down, apparently for help. Mr. James may have been injured.

His body was found in a second snow cave near the first, about 300 feet below the summit. Rescuers found two ice axes, a sleeping bag or pad and rope in the first. It was not known if any gear was in the second cave.

Prospects of finding the other two climbers was dimming, said rescue team member Brian Hukari, who was among those who searched the first cave.

“They’ve been out a long time now … they, obviously, if they are alive they’re really weak,” Mr. Hukari told CNN. “They don’t have radios, they don’t have communications. They’re down in the trees somewhere. Even, sometimes even if you have communications down in those canyons, they’re not going to get out.”

Mr. James’ mother, Lou Ann Cameron, told The Associated Press she did not want to talk about her son and referred questions to the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office.

Teams looking for Mr. Hall and Mr. Cooke planned to focus on possible descent routes on Eliot Glacier and Cooper Spur, relatively lower levels of the mountain, in case the other two got down that far, said Pete Hughes of the sheriff’s office, the lead agency in the search.

“Eliot Glacier is real dangerous so we will do that by air only,” Mr. Hughes said today. “It’s a bad avalanche area with crevasses. There are still people in crevasses that have never been recovered.”

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