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

December 14, 2009 |  1:12 pm

MissingAuthorities and the mountaineering community are still hopeful that two climbers missing on Oregon's 11,249-foot Mt. Hood are alive, but conditions today have been too hazardous to perform a ground search at high altitude, and a crew aboard a military helicopter, as of 1 p.m., had not located sign of the climbers, according to a spokeswoman for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities earlier today told the Associated Press they had not given up hope that experienced climbers Anthony Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., and Katie Nolan, 29, of Portland, Ore., could be found alive. However, time is not their ally, and neither is the weather. Avalanche danger, which is considerable today, is expected to become high on Tuesday.

Sadly, a team of mountaineers located the body of the duo's companion, Luke T. Gullberg, 26, of Des Moines, Wash., on Saturday. The excursion began Friday on the mountain's west side. The climbers were near the summit, based on photos downloaded from Gullberg's camera, which was found near his body.

Here's today's avalanche forecast for Mt. Hood from the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center:

"Temporarily decreasing snow showers should be seen Monday morning. New slab layers are most likely on lee northeast to southeast slopes. Cautious route finding and conservative decision making should be essential on Monday morning.

"A front should cause strongly increasing southwest winds, increasing moderate to heavy snow and warming Monday afternoon and night. This should build layers of increasing density and add loads to buried hoar frost or previous weakened layers. New slab layers should be most likely on northeast to southeast slopes but may be possible on other aspects such as in the Cascade passes. Natural or triggered avalanches should become likely Monday afternoon and night."

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Anthony Vietti is one of the two climbers missing on Mt. Hood in Oregon. Credit: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office