Mt. Hood Search For 3 Climbers - Update
Saturday, December 16, 2006  

PMR was out in force today on the South side of Mt. Hood searching for the 3 missing climbers. This is the first day with reasonable weather since the climbers were reported missing last weekend. It was reasonably clear but very cold (-5 at the top of the Palmer lift) and moderately windy up high (15-25 mph). This quickly developed into a full-on storm at the hogsback.

High winds and cold
Conditions started out cold but manageable low, but developed into a blizzard up high
© Iain Morris (Portland Mountain Rescue)

23 PMR climbers, divided among 6 teams, searched from the treeline west of Timberline Lodge to El. 10,600 on the Hogsback on the standard South side route. Our high team climbed carefully to 10,600' to evaluate avalanche danger along the route, which was expected to be high after several days of stormy weather.

Dale Atkins and Damian of Recco approach Crater Rock as the winds kick up
© Iain Morris (Portland Mountain Rescue)

Avalanche expert Dale Atkins, who had come to Portland to instruct several PMR members on the use of an avalanche victim detection system, instead accompanied our high team to help evaluate the snow conditions. The conclusion is that a cautious push for the summit is feasible tomorrow. There is evidence that one of the subjects made a cell phone call last Sunday from a location near the summit.

Snow Cave
Dale Atkins, Iain Morris, and Marty Johnson digging in at the hogsback in a ground blizzard
© Iain Morris (Portland Mountain Rescue)

PMR also sent 2 members to Hood River County today to help with the search of the North side of the mountain. Helicopters from the Oregon Air National Guard spent several hours combing the North face of the mountain today searching for clues. A clue found at the end of the day today will be investigated tomorrow.

Plans for tomorrow include a cautious push for the summit and providing experienced PMR members as observers in the National Guard helicopters. Forecasters predict slightly better weather conditions tomorrow. We expect about 25 PMR members to participate in the mission on Sunday. It should be a busy day.