Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday Updates

7:00 p.m. EST:

Right now, it is terribly hard to keep up with this. The news has come through that there is one fatality, found in a second cave. We don't know which climber, but our hearts are crushed anyway. I've added photos below of our guys. Please keep us in your prayers.

5:25 p.m. EST: Press conference news

This (the snow cave) tells us they knew what to do and they did it. The missing climbers may be in another snow cave nearby. SAR climbers retrieved the items in the cave and experts will assess them. They aren't giving up the search. The clues are too good.

This is a setback, but rescue workers are moving forward. Please keep the family members in your prayers. This is such an emotional roller coaster.


5:10 p.m. EST:

They've just announced that the snow cave was empty, except for a sleeping bag, 2 ice axes, and some rope. They are continuing to search in the area and follow the footprints and other clues. They can't tell us yet how recently someone was in the cave. Helicopters are still up. Still more daylight, and searchers indicating they will remain on Mt. Hood.


5:00 p.m. EST:

Press conference scheduled shortly. Usually carried live on but is also being covered on CNN and FOX.


4:45 p.m. EST:

I am glued to CNN, but I realize not everyone has access to television coverage, so I'll try to pull myself away and keep you informed.

They're showing live pictures of Mt. Hood. You can see a climber going down the north side, making fairly rapid progress. They expect to reach the snow cave today. They are descending toward that area of Eliot Glacier. Still have a couple hours more of daylight. There are several rescue climbers on the summit. Sky is still crystal clear. Don't see much snow blowing. There is a helicopter hovering in the area.

SAR (Search and Rescue) climbers are digging on the north side.

Capt. Chris Bernard said the lost climbers may be too weak to come out and wave for help. So SAR people have to find them. Rescue efforts will continue until the risk is too great. The SAR climbers will make that decision. They are prepared for night operations and are carrying enough equipment and supplies to stay up for 2-3 days.

RE: what happens when they find the climbers, here's one CascadeClimber's explanation:

Chinook helicopters have a 3ft square hole in the bottom of them that they are able to lower and raise a winch cable out of. If the person medically does not need to be immobilized, they can simply be loaded onto a 1-2 person carrier/seat called a "jungle penetrator". They clip into the ring at the end of the cable and are winched up into the aircraft. The hole is also large enough to accomidate a "litter", what rescuers use to transport people with broken legs, backs, etc. kind of a backboard with handles and rails around it. These can be hooked to the winch cable and guided into the helicopter from below. The latter is more difficult and time consuming, but still fairly standard practice.
I would say that winching them into the bird on the jungle penetrator is the most likely scenario. Another option is to do a "hot" landing on the summit, where flat enough ground allows for the helicopter to set down. They keep the engines running at full speed so there is no danger getting stuck. If the winds are high, they may very well use this option. They can also hover/land with only part of the aircraft on the mountain (like the back, where the door is).
Just for scale, chinook helicopters are about as big as a school bus.
The latest news conference video is available on


3:40 p.m. EST:

Weather remains clear. Conditions are "fairly ideal for rescuing" according to CNN weather reporter.

3:35 p.m. EST:

They have also seen footprints and possibly a "Y" carved in the snow, which experienced climbers do to tell rescuers, "Yes, we are here." The rescue workers are being put down above the targeted area. They will climb down. The area is solid ice, practically straight up and down. Subzero temperatures. Rescue workers can spend the night up there if necessary. It will be slow going. They are relatively optimistic.


News conference is happening now. CNN & FOX are covering. They say the target has narrowed. They have found an ice spike and a coil of rope.

3:10 p.m. EST:

CNN has live coverage of the current rescue efforts. They are going down into the area where they've seen clues of a climber. It's very steep in this area and there is avalanche danger. What they appear to have spotted is piled up snow that results from digging a snow cave. Please pray.


Searchers find signs of climbers.

A helicopter surveying the Mount Hood summit this morning has captured images of what appears to be a snow cave, scattered equipment and what looks like frozen tracks in the snow. Search organizers plan to airlift pararescuers to the summit by helicopter so they can make their way to the area by foot.

2:00 p.m. EST:

At 10:45 a.m. PST (1:45 p.m. EST) searchers were still shy of the summit, coming up from the south side of Mt. Hood. Lost climbers are thought to be on the north side.

To read more:

1:30 p.m. EST:

One of the CascadeClimber set up a feed to grab web camera images from Timberline Lodge. They are being archived today to a Fotki photo web site at This shows how clear the skies are today. Later we may be able to see people gathering, as events progress.

When the climbers are rescued, the plan is to air lift them to one of the Portland hospital's trauma centers.

The uncut new conference from this morning is up now:

KATU also has videos from yesterday, which may interest you as well.


12:40 p.m. EST:

The news conference at Mt. Hood just concluded. Approximately 100 volunteers have been mobilized as climbers and support/ personnel in a multi-agency effort to rescue Kelly, Brian and Nikko. Climbers expect to summit around 10:00 PST. They are focused on locating the site of cell phone signals, but other teams are following leads discovered on Saturday that are leading to another location--presumably where they may find Brian and Nikko.

They're expecting major developments today.

Brian's dad gave a statement. Hopefully, you'll be able to see the news conference at pretty soon. It takes them a while to get it up.

Our hearts are on the mountain.

12:00 noon EST:

"Searchers hope to reach Mount Hood peak by noon.

The lead team of searchers left for the Mount Hood peak at 6 a.m. PST and hope to make the top by noon.

The first team to head up the mountain is known as the hasty team. Those are searchers who are dispatched to the most likely locations where the lost climbers are holed up. On Saturday, the hasty team reached 10,600 feet - the highest searchers have made it since the search effort began.

Dale Atkins, an avalanche expert from Colorado, was on the lead team Saturday and is expected to be on the hasty team today, said Detective Jim Strovink of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

Scaling te mountain takes about six to eight hours in ideal conditions. Today’s weather offers
climbers a rare window of opportunity. After a tumultuous week of weather, today’s winds will be calm and the sky will be clear."

-Noelle Crombie, The Oregonian

10:00 a.m. EST:

From one of the CascadeClimber posts as a tribute to the lost climbers:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood. At best, he knows the triumph of high achievement; if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

9:45 a.m. EST:

Good morning.

Yesterday was a disappointment for everyone, but the climbers remain encouraging and strong. See their website (CascadeClimbers) at the link to the right. In an article on the OregonLive website this morning, I read this about Saturday's search:

Still, there was plenty of progress, said Rocky Henderson, who led the south group's search efforts from the ground. Searchers got significantly higher than at any point in the past week, which will make it easier to summit today. The groups also conducted comprehensive searches of some lower areas that will allow them to focus more on higher elevations. Two experts said the risk of avalanche on the south side was lower than expected and likely to improve, barring more snowfall or a shift in winds.

Henderson said he expects about the same number of volunteers to show up today.

"We did our job today," he said. "Tomorrow will be a big push, then we'll have to reassess."

And this very encouraging bit of news. . .

Still, Hood yielded another clue: Black Hawk helicopters spotted an apparent piece of climbing equipment in the fading light about 300 feet from the top. It was enough to renew hopes that the men -- Kelly James, Brian Hall and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke -- might yet be found alive.

After a day of futility, searchers dubbed the discovery "a clue."

"A nice way to end the day," Hood River County sheriff's Deputy Jeff Scheetz said, descending from the northern base of operations in a snow cat.

You can read the full article at:

I just spoke with Frank. Obviously, yesterday was a terrible disappointment for him, and he faces the ongoing challenges of addressing the media and supporting family members. But he is still hopeful and gearing up for another long day of waiting. Please keep him in your prayers.

Let us keep our hopes up and continue to pray that God will be merciful to us today—that the weather will improve, that searchers will be safe and successful, and that Kelly, Brian and Nikko will come off the mountain alive before nightfall.

Our hope remains firm in the God who loves us and who rules the winds.


Catherine said...

Continuing to watch and wait and pray with you.

Catherine Claire

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry about the latest news. You are all in my prayers. My heart goes out to you. May God comfort you at this very difficult time. Love, Cristi

Catherine said...

This prayer keeps running through my head tonight. I felt led to write it out for you:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love's sake. Amen

Praying with you and for you.

Catherine Claire

Anonymous said...

My heart is breaking. Continuing to pray for the families and all those involved.

Amy Lauger