COOPER SPUR, Ore. (AP) – More searchers headed up Mount Hood on Tuesday during a break between storms, joining rescuers who had spent the night on the mountain in the hunt for three missing climbers.

The weather was dry Tuesday, following blizzard conditions that hampered the search the day before, but authorities said high winds made searching difficult.

“Right now, they’re dealing with 50 to 60 mph winds in the area they’re searching, and blowing snow. It really cuts down their visibility,” said Joseph Wampler, sheriff for Hood River County.

The last anyone heard from the climbers was on Sunday, when one of them, 48-year-old Kelly James, used his cell phone from a snow cave to say the group was in trouble. He said his two companions – Brian Hall, 37, also of Dallas, and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke, 36, of New York City – had gone for help.

Officials have not been able to reach James on his cell phone since then, Wampler said, but search officials have been able to narrow the approximate location through cell phone signals. Searchers believe James’ snow cave is near the summit of the 11,239-foot mountain, on the northeast side, but it is unclear where the other two climbers might be.

“A snow cave can provide excellent shelter from wind and precipitation,” said Steve Rollins, a search leader with Portland Mountain Rescue. “If you’re well prepared in a snow cave, you can last a really long time.”

Climbers can get wet inside snow caves, though, increasing the risk of hypothermia, he said.

Two more storms are expected this week, with one beginning early Wednesday, the National Weather Service said, providing a window of opportunity Tuesday.

Families of the missing climbers have flown to nearby Hood River to await word on their loved ones. They include Frank James of Orlando, Fla., Kelly’s older brother.

Frank James said at a news conference that it wasn’t clear from the four-minute call his brother placed to family members on Sunday whether he was injured. His brother did say he was feeling the effects of the cold and was worried about the weather.

“Today’s the day for courage and for prayers. Courage can help us see through this snowstorm, and our prayers can literally move mountains,” he said.

Most rescuers were taken off the mountain Monday because of the storm, but some continued their efforts during the night on snowmobiles at lower levels in case any of the climbers had made it that far down, officials said.

The three missing climbers are described as experienced.

apparently attempted to quickly climb to the summit while carrying little survival gear, a searcher said.

That “light and fast” strategy can help climbers lessen their risks by reducing the time they spend on the mountain, but “if something goes wrong, you don’t have a lot of gear to fall back on,” said Rollins.

Most climbers take on Mount Hood in May and June, and a climb this time of year is unusual, Rollins said.


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