- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2006

HOOD RIVER, Ore. (AP) — Rescuers looking for three missing climbers on Mount Hood found a body yesterday in the area where one of the climbers made a distress call a week ago, authorities said.

The dead climber had not been identified, said Pete Hughes, a spokesman for the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office. The victim was thought to be one of the three missing climbers, authorities said.

The body was found in a second snow cave near another snow cave where rescuers found a sleeping bag, ice axes and rope, officials said.

Rescuers left the mountain early yesterday evening and planned to resume the search for the two other missing men today, said Capt. Mike Braibish, spokesman for the Oregon National Guard.

“We remain hopeful,” Capt. Braibish said. “We are going to still collect information and pursue the rescue of the two other climbers.”

Teams of climbers and a helicopter will work today to remove the body from the 11,239-foot mountain, said Marc Smith, another sheriff’s department spokesman.

Near the first snow cave, helicopters had spotted rope in a Y-shape, which some rescuers said is commonly used by climbers to indicate their location.

There was also an ice spike and footprints, said Sgt. Gerry Tiffany, spokesman for the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office. The footprints appeared to head up the mountain toward the summit, but were blown out by the wind at higher points, he said.

Searchers dug through the cave, about 300 feet below the summit, to ensure that no one was there and took the equipment, which will be examined for clues.

Weather conditions have been harsh since the three were reporting missing eight days ago, with heavy snowfall and wind gusts of up to 100 mph.

Since Dec. 10, there had been no communication from Kelly James, 48, of Dallas; Brian Hall, 37, of Dallas; or Jerry “Nikko” Cooke, 36, of New York. That’s when Mr. James used his cell phone to call his family to say he was sheltering in a snow cave while his companions started back down the mountain, apparently to get help for him.

The last clue to their whereabouts was a brief signal returned from Mr. James’ cell phone Tuesday.

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