HOOD RIVER, Ore. (AP) – Rescuers looking for three missing climbers on Mount Hood found a body Sunday in the area where one of the climbers made a distress call last week, authorities said.

The dead climber had not yet been identified, said Pete Hughes, a spokesman for the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office. The victim was believed to be one of the three missing climbers, authorities said.

The body was found in a second snow cave near another such cave where rescuers found a sleeping bag, ice axes and rope, officials said.

Rescuers were coming off the mountain Sunday evening and planned to resume the search for the two others Monday, authorities said.

“We remain hopeful,” said Capt. Mike Braibish, spokesman for the Oregon National Guard. “We are going to still collect information and pursue the rescue of the two other climbers.”

Teams of climbers and a helicopter will work Monday to remove the body from the 11,239-foot mountain, said Marc Smith, also a spokesman for the Hood River Sheriff’s Office.

Near the first snow cave, helicopters had spotted rope that had been intentionally laid out in a Y-shape, which climbers often use to indicate their location. There was also an ice spike and footprints, said Sgt. Gerry Tiffany, spokesman for the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office.

The footprints appeared to head up the mountain toward the summit, but were blown out by the wind at higher points, Tiffany said.

Searchers dug through the first cave, about 300 feet below the summit, to ensure no one was there and took the equipment, which will be examined for clues.

Weather conditions have been harsh since the three were reporting missing eight days ago, with heavy snow fall and wind gusts of up to 100 mph. The snow stopped Saturday, but wind up to 50 mph blew the fresh snow, hampering visibility. Skies were blue Sunday, the wind was still, and temperatures at the summit were reported near zero degrees.

There has been no communication from Kelly James, 48, of Dallas, 37-year-old Brian Hall of Dallas, or 36-year-old Jerry “Nikko” Cooke of New York City since Dec. 10, when James used his cell phone to call his family. He told them he was sheltering in a snow cave while his companions started back down the mountain, apparently to get help for him.

The last clue to their whereabouts was a brief signal returned from James’ cell phone Tuesday.

AP-ES-12-17-06 2152EST


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