Mount Hood search evolves to ‘recovery’


News staff writers

December 23, 2006

The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office has transitioned the search for two climbers missing on Mount Hood into a recovery operation.

“At this time the possibility that these men are alive after two weeks in these conditions is pretty remote. So, we can’t continue to put the lives of searchers in danger,” said Chief Deputy Jerry Brown.

However, he said whenever the weather permits — such as Thursday — planes will be in the air and searchers on the ground. He said the bodies of Jerry “Nikko” Cooke, 36, of New York, and Brian Hall, 37, of Texas, are believed to be on or around Eliot Glacier.

This week an aircraft reported “discoloration in the snow” below the White River Glacier. Ground crews were dispatched from Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort and Timberline Lodge to check out the “anomaly,” which turned out to be a rock.

“We plan on checking out any sighting that we have for the sake of these families,” said Brown.

He believes the search that began on Dec. 11 would have been made much easier if the climbers had rented a personal locator beacon from an area outdoor store.

“Anyone going up the mountain should spend that extra $5 because it might make all the difference in our ability to find them,” said Brown.

He said the relatives of the two men have gone home to wait for further news. The body of the third climber, Texan Kelly James, 48, was found in a snow cave near the summit on Dec. 17. After being airlifted to Hood River, his remains were transported to Portland for an autopsy.

The Office of the State Medical Examiner determined on Wednesday that James died of hypothermia from exposure to extreme cold. And that dehydration may have been contributing factor. Initial reports that he had sustained a broken arm or dislocated shoulder were unfounded.

However, Brown said tracks around the snow cave at the 11,000 foot elevation seem to indicate that some sort of accident occurred, which could have limited James’ mobility. An investigation into his death is continuing in hopes of answering questions about what happened on the mountain.

James, Cooke and Hall left from Cooper Spur on Dec. 7 to scale the north face of Mount Hood. They were traveling “light and fast” and carried minimal supplies in their quest to ascend as quickly as possible and then descend to Timberline.

Three days later James called his family and, in a disoriented conversation, mentioned that he was injured and the other two climbers had gone for help.

Sheriff Joe Wampler believes Hall and Cooke had an accident of some sort and fell from the slippery slope.

He is hopeful that their bodies will be found as soon as possible. However, he acknowledges that extreme avalanche danger might force searchers to wait out the winter.

Latest stories

Latest video:

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 to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners