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Officials say chances are slim that missing Mt. Hood climbers are still alive

December 16, 2009 |  7:49 am

Nolan Officials believe it is unlikely that the two climbers missing since Friday on Oregon's Mt. Hood are alive, reports Oregon Fox Television affiliate KPTV.

An authority on mountain survival spoke with family members of the missing climbers Tuesday and told them that the possibility of Katie Nolan, 29, of Portland, Ore., and Anthony Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., surviving conditions on the 11,249-foot mountain for this many days is exceedingly slim.

"Unfortunately, in this case, time is no longer in our favor," Terri Schmidt, a Oregon Health & Science University hypothermia expert, said later at a news conference. "What we know is after 48 hours, the chances of finding someone alive after that go down to about 1%."

Rescue workers are still on standby, but whiteout conditions and the risk of avalanche made any search effort impossible Tuesday and unlikely in the coming days. 

Portland Mountain Rescue team leader Steve Rollins said it would take four or five days of good weather to ease avalanche danger, and such weather on Mt. Hood at this time of year is unlikely.

"If there is anything we could do, we would do it," Rollins said at the news conference. "We will go to extreme lengths to rescue people, but we have to come home at the end of the day."

Vietti The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center still has the avalanche danger listed as high, with the following analysis and forecast for Mt. Hood:

"The current snowpack conditions have all the makings for sensitive avalanche releases. The cold dry weather experienced over the past week caused significant near surface faceting and weakening of and near the prevalent crust layers in the upper snowpack. 

"Added to the current avalanche recipe was shallow amounts of cold low density snow received intermittently prior to the current snowfall, as well as some existing surface hoar layers. Therefore we now have generally 4 to 8 inches of weak snow poorly bonded to a crust that has now been loaded with 1 to 2 feet of increasingly dense snow affected by warming that fell overnight Monday and early Tuesday....

"Briefly decreasing rain or snow is expected early Wednesday along with some cooling. This should allow for a slow decrease in danger. However renewed rain or snow Wednesday afternoon and night should maintain mostly unstable snow at all but the lower elevations."

--Kelly Burgess

Photos: Climbers Katie Nolan, top, and Anthony Vietti, bottom, are still missing on Oregon's Mt. Hood. Credit: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office


Severe weather may halt search for missing Mt. Hood climbers

Poor weather, avalanche danger hamper search for missing Mt. Hood climbers