Two missing climbers phone in from Mount Hood, spend night in snow cave
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) ” A pair of climbers caught in treacherous weather on Mount Hood called a friend on a cell phone this morning to say they had spent a night in a snow cave and were on their way down the mountain.
One of the men called his girlfriend to let her know they had dug into the snow when conditions became so bad they could not continue, said Detective Jim Strovink of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
The pair were at about 3,800 feet, about tree line on the 11,239-foot mountain, Strovink said. That put them about 2,000 feet below Timberline Lodge, where they had parked their car.
In whiteout conditions, Strovink said, climbers heading downhill would be likely to miss the lodge.
“They got disoriented,” he said. “That’s not uncommon.”
The climbers were reported to be cold but in good condition, he said.
The two were described as experienced climbers who apparently carried light gear for the planned one-day climb. They were not immediately identified.
Steve Rollins of Portland Mountain Rescue said the two had planned to take the Leuthold Culoir route up the southwest side of the mountain, a more technical route than the one most climbers take.
“During May and June, which is the normal climbing season, of the 200-300 people who may climb in a day maybe five will take that route,” he said.
He said the route goes under the headwall of Reid Glacier on the mountain’s west side, where there is rockfall and avalanche hazard.
Climbers consider the culoir, or gully, a trash chute, funneling everything that falls down that part of the mountain into the areas where the two were believed to be climbing, Rollins said.
“Once they get near the summit, there is a narrow ridge to traverse, about 300 feet,” he said. “One wrong step to the left and you fall down the north face, one wrong step to the right and you fall down the south side.
“People do climb over there, but people do fall off,” he said.
Three out-of-state climbers died in December 2006 after getting caught in a blizzard on the mountain’s dangerous north side. Rollins said the route the two men took on Monday requires less technical climbing than the north-side route.
Two months later, three hikers and a dog named Velvet were saved after falling over an icy ledge.
More than 35 climbers have died on Mount Hood in the past 25 years.
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