Hood search continues


News staff writers

December 20, 2006

Hood River County Chief Deputy Jerry Brown made it clear on Tuesday morning that the search for two missing climbers would not be abandoned this week – unless weather forced the issue.

“There is a storm front moving in today that could greatly hamper our efforts but we’re still in rescue mode,” he said.

As of press time on Tuesday, an aerial search by local pilots was planned over the Eliot Glacier area. Two Black Hawk helicopters were on standby in case the bright orange of the jacket worn by Jerry “Nikko” Cooke, 36, of New York was spotted. Or there was a glimpse of the yellow coat worn by Brian Hall, 37, of Texas.

The body of their companion, Kelly James, 48, also of Texas, was found inside a snow cave about 300 feet below the summit on Sunday. The two missing climbers were believed to have attempted a descent of the north face of Mount Hood in a quest to get help for James, who possibly had a broken arm.

Brown said the James family has returned to Texas to make burial arrangements. His body was transported to Portland for an autopsy on Tuesday to determine the exact cause of death.

The wives and relatives of Hall and Cooke are still keeping a vigil in Hood River and urging the search to continue.

Hall, Cooke and James began their ascent up the Cooper Spur Route on Dec. 7. They were traveling “light and fast” and carried only limited supplies.

Sheriff Joe Wampler now theorizes it is possible that Hall and Cooke had an accident while attempting a hurried descent that weekend. In his last phone call home on Dec. 10th, James said that he was injured and the pair had gone for help.

James’ whereabouts were tracked by his cell phone provider and the waterlogged phone was found on his body. Brown said both Cooke and Hall were also carrying cell phones, but neither device appears to have been turned on and messages have gone unanswered.

Military planes equipped with infrared sensors flew over the mountain on Saturday but were unable to detect any signs of human life.

Wampler said the discovery of ice axes in what appears to be a staging area about 400 feet from James’ cave provides a “disturbing clue” that a fall took place. He said two small ice axes were found that would have been essential tools used by the climbers to keep their balance during howling winds.

However, the sheriff said the standard-issue equipment could also have belonged to James. None of the families have been able to provide specifics about what each man would have been carrying.

If Cooke and Hall fell the 2,500 feet into the area called “the gullies” above Eliot Glacier, they could be buried under 10-foot snow drifts. That location cannot be searched from the ground because of extreme avalanche danger.

“We’re looking for anything that we can see at this point,” said Brown. “We aren’t giving up but the weather is going to dictate how much we can do.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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