HOOD RIVER, Ore. (AP) Teams of hand-picked expert mountaineers tried Saturday to take advantage of easing weather conditions atop Mount Hood in the search for three missing climbers, but the fickle and still-treacherous conditions turned them back.
The weather wasn't as bad as it had been during searches in the week since the climbers went missing, but winds reaching 50 mph kicked up snow from recent storms and limited visibility, and cold temperatures hindered climbers.
"It wasn't quite the dream picture we had hoped for today," said Sgt. Sean Collinson of the Clackamas County sheriff's office. "But there is the chance tomorrow will be a better day."
Forty-five rescue mountaineers had scoured the upper elevations of the 11,239-foot mountain. Others rode in Blackhawk helicopters surveying the mountain's north side.
Collinson said a C-130 aircraft equipped with thermal imaging would continue flying around the 11,239-foot mountain during the night, looking to pick up body heat from the missing climbers, who left December 7th on what was to be a two-day trip.
Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler said the odds of finding them alive would be improved if they had held onto the "bivvy sack" sleeping bags they said they were taking on their trek. Some climbers stash gear such as sleeping bags and backpacks to lighten their load as they head to the summit, then pick it up on the way back down, but he said searchers had not found any gear left by the three men.
"They either stashed it really good, or they have it with them," he said. "If they have it with them, it greatly increases their chances."
At a news conference with Wampler, the mothers of the missing climbers choked back tears as they expressed hope their sons would be found.
"I know my son's coming down today," Lou Ann Cameron of Bryant, Ark., said of her son, Kelly James. "It's my birthday. He wouldn't miss my birthday."
James, 48, called family members on his cell phone on December 10th to report that he had taken refuge in a snow cave while his companions headed down the mountain for help. The two climbers believed to have tried to descend the mountain are Brian Hall, 37, and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, 36.
James and Hall are from Dallas, Cooke is from New York.
The last clue to their whereabouts was a signal returned from James' cell phone Tuesday.