Source Pravda.Ru

Oregon missing climbers most likely killed by howling winds

Two missing climbers may have been swept to their deaths over a cliff by howling winds of more than 100 mph (160 kph) after they left their injured companion behind in a snow cave to get help.

Air crews will continue to survey the area on Mount Hood because avalanche conditions make it unsafe for ground crews to head through a treacherous side of the mountain known as "the gullies," where climbers have fallen in the past, said Sheriff Joe Wampler.

The body of Kelly James, 48, was found dead Sunday in one of two caves just below the summit. His two companions have been missing for a week.

Searchers found the cave near the area located by signals from the cell phone James used to place a four-minute distress call to relatives a little more than a week ago.

The discovery of James' body, which remained on the mountain overnight because darkness made it too dangerous to retrieve, followed a long week of hope in the search on the 11,239-foot (3,372-meter) mountain.

James had an unspecified arm injury that apparently prevented him from continuing, Wampler said. Climbing equipment found on the mountain - including two slings and two aluminum anchors driven into the snow - led rescuers to believe that James' companions, Brian Hall and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, had tried to secure themselves to the steep slope. That was the last sign of the two.

If they did not find a place to take shelter, the sheriff warned, the climbers are long past the point of survival. But he added: "You can last a long time in a hole. We're going to keep looking for that hole."

Family members had relied on intense religious faith along with confidence that the trio's extensive mountaineering experience would save them from a week of blizzards and subfreezing temperatures that hampered search teams on the mountain and in aircraft.

James had told his family that his climbing party was in trouble and that Hall and Cooke had headed back down, apparently for help.

James' body was found about 300 feet (90 meters) below the summit, the AP said.

Teams were expected to continue searching for two more days, but weather forecasts may require them to take a break about Wednesday.

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