FILE – In this Jan. 29, 2007 file photo, Mount Hood is shown as the sun sets in AP – FILE – In this Jan. 29, 2007 file photo, Mount Hood is shown as the sun sets in Portland, Ore. Crews …
By WILLIAM McCALL, Associated Press Writer William Mccall, Associated Press Writer – 35 mins ago
PORTLAND, Ore. – Rescuers recovered the body of a mountaineer and are searching for his companions, two days after the trio began climbing an especially treacherous face of Oregon’s Mount Hood.
The three climbers began their ascent on the west side of the 11,249-foot mountain about 1 a.m. Friday and were due back several hours later in the afternoon, but failed to return.
After hours of searching, teams on Saturday found the body of 26-year-old Luke T. Gullberg, of Des Moines, Wash. at about the 9,000-foot level, said Jim Strovink, Clackamas County sheriff’s spokesman.
Strovink said Gullberg’s body was transported off the mountain by rescue crews and a forensic examination was planned. No details were released on how he died or the condition of the body.
The remaining climbers were identified as Anthony Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., and Katti Nolan, 29, of Portland. All three climbers have been described as experienced and well-equipped.
A search was set to resume at dawn Sunday for Vietti and Nolan.
“This is still a rescue operation,” Strovink said, adding that family members had been notified and some had joined rescue crews.
About 30 searchers focused Saturday on the area around Reid Glacier in “cold, icy and treacherous” weather conditions with visibility levels too low to conduct an air search, he said.
For Sunday, the National Weather Service forecasts called for slightly warming temperatures in the morning with snow fall tapering off and chances of improved visibility levels, said Chris Collins, a National Weather Service forecaster in Portland.
“They should certainly be able to use a helicopter in the afternoon” if the pattern holds, Collins said. “There shouldn’t be any significant visibility restrictions.”
Strovink said search crews would be cautious, testing snow and weather conditions before they begin.
Mount Hood, the tallest mountain in Oregon, is a popular site among climbers in the United States. In 25 years, it has been the site of dozens of climbing accidents and fatalities.
The worst on record happened in May 1986 when nine people — seven students from Oregon Episcopal School and two adults — died after they dug a snow cave during a sudden storm.
The latest search comes almost exactly three years after another trio of experienced climbers died on Mount Hood during a December 2006 blizzard.
The three did not have a radio locator beacon but they did have a cell phone that was briefly activated about 1:30 a.m. Friday as the climbers were leaving Timberline Lodge to begin their ascent, Strovink said.
Steve Rollins of Portland Mountain Rescue said a locator beacon would have been helpful in this case but many rescuers oppose a mandate to carry them because they believe it will lead some climbers to take risks they otherwise would avoid.
“And that increases the risks to rescuers,” he said.
Rollins noted that climbers often receive good signals on their cell phones on areas of the mountain but the phones sometimes lack enough power to send out a call or message.
“It’s frustrating,” Rollins said, “when you can see all the way to Salem or beyond and wonder how many cell tower sites are out there.”