Tags: oregon | moubt | hood | rescue | lost | climbers

Oregon Rescuers Race Clock in Search

Monday, 14 Dec 2009 11:28 PM


GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. – As a winter storm barreled toward Mount Hood, rescuers raced to find two experienced climbers missing for four days on Oregon's highest peak.

A military Black Hawk helicopter spent Monday scanning the upper reaches of the mountain as ground teams fanned out below. But the desperate search ended for the day as darkness fell and the storm approached.

"No sign at all," said Monty Smith, a member of the Portland Mountain Rescue team who was aboard the helicopter.

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Bad weather has hampered the search for Anthony Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., and Katie Nolan, 29, of Portland, who have been missing since Friday.

Overnight temperatures have dipped into the teens with moderate winds and intermittent snow.

A major storm was expected to hit Monday night and bring from 10 to 12 inches of snow, forecasters said.

"Winds should be fairly mild," said Liana Ramirez, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Portland. "We may have some strong gusts overnight, but mostly on ridges and exposed areas."

Mountaineers found the body of fellow climber Luke T. Gullberg, 26, of Des Moines, Wash., on Saturday at the 9,000-foot level on Reid Glacier.

An autopsy showed Gullberg survived a "long, slow" fall and was able to walk and crawl several hundred yards before dying of hypothermia, The Oregonian newspaper reported Monday on its Web site.

"He had minor trauma but nothing lethal," Dr. Chris Young of the state medical examiner's office told the newspaper.

Jim Strovink, spokesman for the Clackamas County sheriff's office, later confirmed to the AP that Gullberg died of exposure and said the autopsy also showed the climber had suffered some minor injuries.

Strovink added that tracks had been found around Gullberg's body. But he said he hadn't been told that Gullberg was able to walk and crawl any great distance.

Officials were examining photos from Gullberg's camera for possible clues about the location of his two companions.

Teri Preiss, an aunt of Vietti, said the photos suggested the trio had changed their route up the mountain to avoid one that looked too dangerous.

Preiss believes her nephew and Nolan were strong enough to survive somewhere on the 11,249-foot mountain.

Steve Rollins, a search leader, said the climbers had ice axes that could be used to hack out a snow cave.

"It's more like digging with a spoon than a shovel, but if your life is in danger, you can do wonderful things," Rollins said.

Photos from Gullberg's camera also showed the group had standard mountaineering gear such as helmets and ropes. Officials previously said the climbers did not have shovels.

Gullberg's body was found on a flat area near the base of a 1,500-foot headwall, Rollins told The Associated Press.

Other photos showed the trio had been roped together at some point, but rescuers found no rope with Gullberg's body.

"That's a big part of the mystery. Where's the rope? Why wasn't the group together," Rollins said.

Using ropes at a particular point of a climb is a decision climbers make depending on their confidence, ability and terrain, Rollins said, adding that roping slows climbers.

Monday's futile search efforts ended with Strovink and other officials saying they would be unable to determine a plan for Tuesday until they knew what the weather would be like.

"Everybody's on standby," Strovink said. "We're going to reassess in the morning."

© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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