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One Mt. Hood Hiker Confirmed Dead; Holding Out Hope for the Others

Aired December 17, 2006 - 23:00   ET


CAPT. MIKE BRAIBISH, OREGON NATIONAL GUARD: There was a secondary snow cave that was discovered. The climbers, our climbers did get inside the snow cave and have confirmed that there is one fatality. We do not have the identity of that individual at this time.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the words that families and rescuers and those of you watching did not want to hear. We have exclusive coverage tonight of the Mount Hood rescue and recovery effort in Oregon.

I'm Carol Lin with a special edition of the CNN NEWSROOM. Rob Marciano and Jacqui Jeras, Dan Simon and some very special guests will join me over the next two hours. We are going to bring you all the latest from Oregon, where tragedy now mingling with continuing hope.

Now, here's what we know so far. A body found on the snow- covered slopes of Mount Hood. It's thought to be one of the climbers who have been missing for more than a week. The body was found this afternoon in a snow cave and at this hour, rescuers won't say who it is.

Now, the body was found after searching two snow caves. The first one had a sleeping bag and ice axes and rope. Searchers also found footprints and a Y-shaped trench in the snow outlined with rope.

Tonight, search team leaders are considering their plan of action for tomorrow. And when asked about the two climbers still missing, a spokesman for the Oregon National Guard said, and I'm quoting here, "We remain hopeful."

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: CNN's Dan Simon is at the base of Mount Hood. He's been reporting for us there all week long -- Dan, is there any new news tonight?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rob, at this hour, there's some strategizing that is taking place in terms of how tomorrow is going to be carried out, in terms of recovering this body. That body still on the mountain tonight. And as we heard Carol just say, that body has not been identified.

So you have three families tonight going to sleep tonight not knowing if it's their loved one who is on that mountain.

In terms of the other two bodies, as Carol mentioned, as well, this is still a search and rescue operation, meaning that authorities are still hopeful that those other two mountaineers are still alive.

Back here on this air strip here at Hood River, such a range of emotions today in terms of how everything happened. You had several family members huddled together at the start of the day. They cheered these rescuers. They thanked them so much for all of their efforts.

When the helicopters went up, everybody was clapping. And then later on in the day, there was the discovery of this very first snow cave and authorities had zeroed in on those snow cave a few days ago.

They attempted to get there over the last couple of days, but the weather was just so intense. The wind was whipping around so much that they couldn't get there.

Finally, today, you had a brilliant day. It was clear, not much wind and they got to this first snow cave. They went inside, but no one was there.

And then, almost by accident, in that general area, they stumbled upon this second snow cave and they went inside. And that's where they found one of the missing climbers. And, at this point, we do not know who that gentleman is -- Rob, back to you.

MARCIANO: Thank you, Dan.

Dan Simon live for us at the base of Mount Hood in Hood River, Oregon.

LIN: And you were saying, Rob, taking a look at the video out of Mount Hood today, it was a beautiful day there.


LIN: A perfect day for this kind of search.

But clearly not the case most of this week, when they really needed to get to these climbers a lot sooner.

So weather being the biggest problem out there?

MARCIANO: Yes, it is. And today they had a picture perfect day.

Jacqui Jeras, as you know, you know, if you can get one of these days in a week in Oregon this time of year, that's a pretty good deal. They may squeeze out more than one.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely. I think we're going to get three altogether when you line them up. And that is certainly great news.

But one thing to keep in mind is when you have those clear skies, that brings in very cold temperatures. We're talking extreme conditions tonight in the Mount Hood area, expecting to see temperatures in the double digits below zero. It's about two below right now at 11,000 feet. And that cold air is going to be sticking around for a couple of days.

We'll gradually watch that warm up just a little bit. But what we need is a lot of sunshine, very calm winds. We're certainly going to be getting that. We've got a blocking pattern setting up across the Pacific Northwest. So any storms that may be approaching are going to be going up and over the area.

Now, daylight, we need as much of that as we can get. Sunrise tomorrow about 7:45 in the morning. Sunset approximately 4:30. So we're looking at about eight-and-a-half hours of time that the crews are going to have to get out there and have some really good visibility.

The winds are expected to be relatively light once again, maybe five, 10 miles per hour. That's extremely light when we're talking about 11,000 feet in the atmosphere.

But in the Gulf of Alaska we've got another storm system which is developing. This is going to be strengthening and heading down toward the Pacific Northwest.

Now, this high is going to start to slow it down a little bit, so weather conditions should be arriving with cloudiness and maybe a little precipitation by Wednesday night. And that's going to linger because it's going to stall out because of that high sitting there, which means we're probably going to see overcast conditions, rain and snow, of course, snow up in the higher elevations Wednesday night, Thursday and probably even lingering into Friday morning.

There you can see those winds approaching. And we're looking at more of the oranges approaching, which means 30 mile per hour winds. A big difference, not nearly as vigorous of a storm as what we saw last go around, with more than 120 mile per hour wind gusts.

MARCIANO: That's good news.

Thanks, Jacqui.

You know, Mount Hood is considered one of the best climbing destinations anywhere. It stands more than 11,000 feet above sea level and it's the second most climbed mountain in the world. First is Japan's Mount Fuji.

Experts say the rule of thumb is to climb Mount Hood between May and June. That's to avoid avalanches and rock falls. It's also a dormant volcano, located about 50 miles east of Portland.

But many geologists believe it's also Oregon's most likely volcano to erupt. It's also graced with 11 glaciers at its peak.

LIN: Rob, we're staying on the story of the missing hikers.

But we've got some other headlines, as well, including this one about John Edwards, who has his eye on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We're hearing he is definitely going to enter the 2008 presidential race and will make it official later this month. Edwards was the Democrats' V.P. nominee back in 2004.

And it looks like Edwards may have plenty of company. Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich is hinting at a possible White House run. On NBC, Gingrich named several Republicans to watch. He says if none of them has a clear advantage by September, he might make an announcement.

A steel beam becomes a pillar of strength for families who lost loved ones on 9/11. A 30-ton column went on display at the former site of the World Trade Center. It is the first piece of the new Freedom Tower. Family members and first responders were invited to sign it.


DANIEL LIBESKIND, ARCHITECT: It means a lot. You know, we've struggled for so many years to make sure that this site is, first of all, a moving site, a memorial that forever will inscribe these names, and, at the same time, to reach the skies and speak to the area in general to say this is freedom, this is America, this is New York.


LIN: That's was Daniel Libeskind, the architect of the new Freedom Tower.

Now, gas prices continue to inch up. A national survey puts the hike at about 2 cents over the last two weeks. A gallon of self-serve regular is about $2.29 a gallon.

But that isn't keeping anyone home, away from the movies, at least. "The Pursuit of Happiness" debuts at number one. The rags to riches flick took in $27 million, with an inspiring story line. The film is Chris Gardner's real life story and I spoke with him earlier and asked for a little advice.


CHRIS GARDNER: Baby steps count, too, as long as you are going forward. You add all those baby steps up one day and you will be amazed at where you might get to.


LIN: Almost to Wall Street. The man's amazing.

MARCIANO: That's a good story.

LIN: Now, still to come, our next guest survived 17 days trapped in a snow cave on Mount Hood.

How he made it out alive gives us hope that they'll find the two climbers left. MARCIANO: Plus, we'll have much more on the search, rescue and recover for the two remaining climbers.

Stay with CNN.


MARCIANO: Special coverage in the CNN NEWSROOM tonight -- tragic but still hopeful search efforts on Mount Hood, Oregon.

Here's what we know.

Since three climbers went missing more than a week ago, a body today was found. No I.D. just yet. Authorities say they still believe the other two missing climbers could be alive.

The body was found in one of two makeshift snow caves. The other cave had a sleeping bag, ice axes and rope.

Rescuers also found footprints and a Y-shaped trench made of rope in the snow.

In the air and ground search for the remaining two missing climbers has been called off for the night. But rescuers intend to bring the body down the mountain on Monday to start the identification process.

Well, few people can understand what it's like to be stranded in the top of Mount Hood but Randy Knapp has been there. And he survived a 17-day ordeal on the mountain back in 1976.

Earlier tonight, he spoke with CNN's Larry King about the dangers of being exposed to the brutally cold weather.


LARRY KING, CNN ANSHOR: Did you ever come close to hypothermia, as described by Dr. Gupta?

RANDY KNAPP, SURVIVED 17 DAYS ON MOUNT HOOD: We came very close. From the fourth day out, when we started hiking down, we were -- we were climbing through very wet snow. And our gear became wet and our clothes became wet. And so from that day on, for the next 13 days, we were wet constantly. And we were shivering constantly. We knew we were close to hypothermia so we did everything we could. We insulated ourselves as much as we could from the snow. We were -- we were careful to keep our feet up off the snow. But we knew that we were close all the time.


LIN: See, it gives hope that the two other climbers may very well still be alive.

But it is certainly possible the climber who died on Mount Hood succumbed to hypothermia. CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, talked to Larry King earlier tonight.


KING: When this sad case of this one person who is dead, your guess would be -- and naturally you haven't done an autopsy -- he died of what?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Most likely hypothermia. More generally speaking, exposure. The body just gets too cold to be able to sustain functions anymore and slowly things just start to shut down. Obviously, when people get cold they start to shiver, but slowly become more exhausted and slowly your organ systems, they fail.

You can see some of the things that happen in that process, including confusion, which is very significant. Rick Sanchez talks a lot about this because it affects your judgment at that point; memory loss, as well. And then finally drowsiness. People sort of drift off to sleep and then they don't wake up, Larry.

KING: Are there some type of people who can handle it better than others? And, if so, what do they have?

GUPTA: Yes, it's a good question and people write a lot about this. They talk about people's metabolism being different, for example, and being able to sustain colder temperatures for longer periods of time. That's just a person. But also, obviously, just even a little bit of moisture on somebody's body can drastically change the temperature at which somebody becomes hypothermic. So if they're wet for some reason or another, even what would be just cool temperatures instead of very cold temperatures, can make someone hypothermic.

But, also, this will that I think Rick talked about and some other people have talked about, to not get to that drowsiness stage. There was a great book I read years ago called "Touching The Void," specifically about that time period where you're willing yourself to stay awake. It is difficult, but some people have that and, you know, they can sort of stay awake even in the coldest circumstances.


MARCIANO: Facing the fury of Mother Nature.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: It's a biting cold. It's hard to see. It's actually downright painful. The question now is if you were stuck in these conditions, what do you do? How do you survive?


MARCIANO: CNN's Rick Sanchez finds out next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LIN: Here's what we know right now as we continue special coverage of the rescue and recovery efforts on Oregon's Mount Hood.

A body has been found on the snow-covered slopes. It is one of the three climbers who have been missing for more than a week. The body was found this afternoon in the second of two snow caves found by rescuers. It has not yet been identified.

The discovery happened not long after searchers found a different snow cave. It did contain a sleeping bag and ice axes and rope. Searchers also found footprints and a Y-shaped pattern in the snow made of rope.

Well, tonight, search team leaders are considering their plan of action for tomorrow. And when asked about the two climbers still missing, a spokesman for the Oregon National Guard said, "We remain hopeful."

MARCIANO: Carol, even in the face of tonight's painful news, the search teams vow to keep looking for the other two missing climbers.

A little while ago, the spokesman for the Oregon National Guard said rescue efforts will go on.


BRAIBISH: The searchers are putting their heart and soul into this. We still keep that common focus that we all have. There is a common focus. We continue to search. We continue to look. We remain optimistic. We remain hopeful. We're going to still collect information and we are going to proceed with this. We continue to proceed with this as a rescue for the two remaining climbers.


LIN: Well, you can talk about it, read about it, watch TV news reports about it. But climbing two miles up a mountain in December is one of those things you can't fully understand until you try it.

CNN's Rick Sanchez did at Loveland Pass, Colorado.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a distance, Rocky Mountain summits seem to melt into the clouds. As we get closer, though, they reveal their danger. That cut is called Seven Sisters.

See the seven parallel paths?

Each one is a known avalanche zone, where skiers and mountaineers have been trapped or killed.

(on camera): You're not going to be able to get out of the way once that thing gets rolling?

MICHAEL ALKAITIS, AMERICAN MOUNTAIN GUIDES ASSN.: Oh, no, no, you'll be right in it.

SANCHEZ: Really?


SANCHEZ: Chances of surviving?

ALKAITIS: I couldn't say. Not very good.

SANCHEZ: Not good?


(voice-over): As we drive higher, we're met by a sudden ground blizzard. I expected it would be extreme, but this is unimaginable.

(on camera): There are places on Earth where you feel god's fury, but I can't imagine any of them being any worse than this. What I'm feeling right now, we're about -- almost 12,000 feet. This is the Continental Divide. I've been in enough hurricanes to know what hurricane force gusts, if not winds, feel like. This is easily at least 60 mile an hour gusts that are blowing through here. At times, it's difficult to stand up.

It's a biting cold. It's hard to see. In fact, it's downright painful. The question now is, if you are stuck in these conditions, what do you do? How do you survive?

(voice-over): We've elicited the help of two renowned mountaineering experts, who teach, the first order of business is to build a snow cave. Without it, you will not survive.

ALKAITIS: We would just get in there, into that cave, get on our packs to insulate ourselves from the snow...


ALKAITIS: ... and stay warm, huddled close together all night.

SANCHEZ: Even in a snow cave, you can still get slammed by an avalanche, but experienced mountaineers avoid it by taking into account both slope and snow density when figuring out where to camp.

(on camera): We can't see the top of that peak. Look straight up there. Because of this wind, you can't see it, but could that start an avalanche at any time?

ALKAITIS: It's not tall enough...


ALKAITIS: ... right now to start an avalanche. If it did fly, it has no energy.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): But, by far, the biggest killer is the weather itself. Within hours of being exposed, mountaineers can suffer hypothermia, which causes them to become strangely delusional.

ALKAITIS: And you'd eventually become euphoric, think that the snow is really warm and soft, and lay down and go to sleep forever.

SANCHEZ: It is why some victims are found disrobed. They actually believe it's warm in freezing weather. Experts, who recommend not going into these conditions without a shovel, a backpack, a head lamp, a compact stove to melt water in and at least a sleeping bag, say even with these items, under extreme conditions, you'll still only be able to hold on for so long.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, Loveland Pass, Colorado.


LIN: You can watch more of Rick's reports weeknights on "A.C. 360" at 10:00 Eastern.

MARCIANO: And Jacqui Jeras has been following the weather situation on Mount Hood and elsewhere all night long -- Jacqui, what do you have?

JERAS: Well, Rob, we've been talking so much about how great the weather has been today, which really allowed them to make this progress and find one of the bodies of the climbers.

But one thing to keep in mind is what is good to some people is not great to others. Two degrees below zero -- that's the temperature that we're estimating right now near the some more troops of Mount Hood, up at about 11,000 feet.

Now, we don't get weather observations quite up that high. Meadow Ski Lodge has an observing site at about 6,600 feet.

So when you go up in elevation, you're temperatures drop about three-and-a-half degrees per 1,000 feet.

So do the calculation -- temperature at Meadow Ski Area right now about 16 degrees Fahrenheit. So that would equate to about two degrees below zero. That's very extreme and we're just getting into the nighttime hours now. We're expecting to drop into to double digits below zero.

Clear conditions are expected again tomorrow, with the sunshine out. We'll have about eight-and-a-half hours of daylight tomorrow. Expecting our high temperature in the afternoon in that area to be about 22 degrees.

temperatures warmer still as we approach into Tuesday. And now clear conditions are prevailing. You can see some storminess out in the Pacific. But our storm pressure system, high pressure here in the Pacific Northwest is blocking that out, not allowing it to move in, which is great news. Everything is going to go up and over the packed Northwest for the next couple of days.

But come Wednesday, there's a new storm system which is going to be arriving and that is going to be bringing some changing conditions. The clouds will be on the increase, the winds will be picking up and the temperatures dropping down once that storm moves on through.

So weather conditions overall ideal for the rescue effort, but still extreme cold tonight. Two below at this hour.

MARCIANO: That is definitely chilly. They'll have to bundle up tomorrow morning.

All right, Jacqui, thanks.

LIN: All right, well, we've got much more coming up.

Right about now, there's going to be a meeting out at Mount Hood. They've got to decide what the plan is for tomorrow, what they're going to do at the crack of dawn and how they're going to approach their next step to find two missing climbers.

We're going to get a live update.

We'll be right back.


MARCIANO: We're bringing you full coverage tonight of the Mount Hood tragedy.

Here's what we know this hour.

Three missing climbers, one anguished week of searching and the worst news emerged today about one of them. Emergency crews discovered a snow cave with a body inside. The man's identity has not yet been made public. The search for the other two is off for the night, but hopeful rescuers will hit the mountain in the morning.

Last night hour we received -- I'm sorry, Carol.

Go ahead.

LIN: No, that's all right. This just came in, in fact, Rob, that last hour we received the scanner traffic from rescue teams on Mount Hood today. This does confirm when they found the body of one of the hikers.

So we want you to take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) base from summit team. We have found one (UNINTELLIGIBLE) snow cave. One (UNINTELLIGIBLE) snow cave. Stand by for a medical assessment, over.

LIN: That's when they found the -- they had the confirmation that they found a body inside the second snow cave that we heard about today.

Our Dan Simon has been on the scene near the base of Mt. Hood all day. He joins us now with the latest.

Dan, have the rescuers had a chance to have a meeting, a strategy meeting about how they're going to approach the morning?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We saw them having a meeting earlier tonight. And I took a peek inside and you could just see, you know, the look on their faces. And it really told the story and just how sad everything unfolded today.

Just to give you a sense in terms of how this day progressed, Carol. You know, I was here early this morning. The families were all out here on the tarmac. They had smiles on their faces. There was so much optimism in the air. They applauded the rescuers as they left on the helicopter.

And then about an hour later, we were told that crews had spotted the very first snow cave. And this is the cave that they had zeroed in on for several days. They couldn't get there earlier in the week because the weather was jut so bad. It was so windy. It was like a whiteout. And then finally, after a week, the weather cleared up today. It was perfectly clear. The winds were light and so this was really a window of opportunity for the crews to get in there and investigate that snow cave.

Well, they went into the first snow cave. It turned out to be empty. There was some equipment there, but no one inside. And then only a few yards away, they stumbled upon the second snow cave. And that's when they went in there and found one of the missing climbers. He was dead.

And they're not sure where the other two missing climbers are. Still being characterized as a search and rescue mission, meaning they're not giving up hope, that perhaps these other two missing climbers can be found alive.

But the fact now that you have one deceased climber obviously it doesn't bode well for the others -- Carol.

LIN: Well, not right now. But hope springs eternal. So many people have talked about the possibility of them being holed up somewhere safe.

But three searchers I talked to today, three men who were on the mountain, part of this search, say that, you know, what they're trying to do in that room right now is come up with a scenario. All right, let's say one climber clearly stayed in this area and built at least one snow cave. The other two -- which way did they go? So they throw out their on the table.

But, frankly, the last guy I talked to was on the south side of the mountain today said -- you know, I asked him, what scenario would you throw out there right now? And he said, I have no idea. Do you have the sense that they're working virtually from ground zero right now?

SIMON: In terms of finding those other two, yes. The problem is because it was such a clear day and because there was so much noise in the air, one would think that if these other two are alive, they would have attempted to make their presence known, Carol.

Again, don't want to take anybody's hope and there is some optimism that these other two could be found alive. But the fact that you have this one missing climber and that these other two climbers did not emerge today, despite the fact you had all this activity. It was a beautiful day. The weather was a non-issue here and we just didn't see them.

But in terms of a strategy, it's going to be full steam ahead tomorrow to find them. There's going to be crews going up on the south side of the mountain and the north side. And it's really a mystery where those other two climbers are -- Carol.

LIN: And a priority to bring the body of one of the missing climbers down tomorrow and to get confirmation of his identity?

SIMON: Right. That really is the first order of business in the morning. They have devised a game plan in terms of how they're going to do that. And they want to do it with a certain amount of sensitivity. They don't want to rush doing that.

And in the morning they're going to go up with a helicopter. It's not easy getting to that spot there on the Elliot glacier, about 300 feet below the summit. So it's going to take a few hours to navigate to that second snow cave and then recover the body, Carol.

LIN: All right.

SIMON: And then, as you said, that body still needs to be identified by family members and that has to be done for legal reasons -- Carol.

LIN: Dan, thank you much, very much for your reporting on this. I've just watched, you know, as you built up to the excitement of their discovery this afternoon and then you were with us through the announcement of the finding of this body. I think the families can find some comfort in the sensitivity of your reporting. Thank you so much.

SIMON: You bet, thank you.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: and it's times like these when we turn to those with the most personal experience.

Randy Knapp (ph) is a man with more experience in cold weather survival than he ever planned to have. We talked to him last hour.



VOICE OF RANDY KNAPP, SURVIVED MT. HOOD ORDEAL: It was beginning of 1976, about the first 16 days of 1976.

MARCIANO (voice-over): And you and your buddies were going to make a little New Year's jaunt up the mountain. And what happened?

KNAPP: Well, what originally was planned for a three- or four- day climb up the mountain turned into a 17-day climb when the weather turned on us and a storm came in and the visibility went down to absolutely zero. There were times when we couldn't even see the snow at our feet. And so we decided to head down the mountain and we got lost.

MARCIANO: Now, how easy is it to get lost on Mt. Hood?

KANPP: Well, when you can't see what you're doing, it's pretty easy to get lost. We made the mistake, being, you know, amateur climbers and young. We had forgotten our map in our car. We had compasses, we had altimeters, all that kind of stuff. But without a map to guide us, we were kind of shooting in the dark. And so we did the best we could by memory since we climbed the mountain before. We did the best we could. And we just, we missed it.

MARCIANO: I think what's probably the most encouraging about your story when it started being retold a few days ago, is that one, it's, it happened on Mt. Hood; two, it happened in the dead of winter, much like this accident; and three, you guys survived in a snow cave for how long?

KNAPP: We were in our final snow cave for 13 days. During the time we were on there, on the mountain, we dug a total of I think six or seven snow caves. My memory is getting blurry.

MARCIANO: OK, so you dug six or seven snow caves. A lot of people are asking why there was a second snow cave found today. Can you shed some light on why you would dig multiple snow caves?

KNAPP: The reason we did, originally our first snow cave we dug just in the front of it. That's when the weather was still good. And we were planning on using it as our kind of high camp. We had dug it at the 9,600 foot level near Illumination Saddle. And we just dug that one for fun. That's when the weather was still fine and we didn't have any weather issues.

When we started down the mountain a couple of days later, we dug the snow cave for survival. And just to get out of the elements. It was snowing hard. The snow was wet. And we were getting wet and our equipment was getting wet. And so instead of being at the elements, we dug in under the snow just so we could -- we could be warmer.

MARCIANO: Tell us what -- what's the most enjoyable or fascinating thing about climbing Mt. Hood? Why is it so special?

KNAPP: Well, first of all, it's a beautiful mountain. And I know a lot of people question why climbers would climb in the wintertime. In the wintertime, the mountain is in its most beautiful state. The rocks are covered with ice crystals that -- that look like pearls on Mt. Hood. There's a section near the summit called the Pearly Gates, and it is the section that most people who climb the south side route pass through. And in the wintertime, it's just gorgeous. The rocks are just resilient with color. And it's just a beautiful time to climb. The weather is cold, but we take cold weather gear. So it's just the storms we've got to watch out for.

MARCIANO: A lot of the -- many questions and many times the question's been asked, you know, why do men and women like yourself climb these mountains. And I can hear your smile when you describe the beauty of the mountain as you make that ascent. That passion is shared with all mountain climbers, I suppose.

KNAPP: Yes, it is. And, you know, another important element is -- is, you know, taking on a challenge that's not easy. And feeling your body, your muscles, your skills, your mind work as, I guess, as an orchestra, everything working perfectly; feeling strong; feeling confident. Just all that process going up a challenging route to make it to the top.

The -- just the feeling of exhilaration is -- I guess like any sport, when a runner is running well, they experience a runner's high. When a climber is climbing well, we experience a climber's high and we don't take drugs to do it.



LIN: Wow. We are going to return to our coverage of the search and the rescue and the recovery of the missing climbers in Oregon.

Up next, the president of the search team tells what he saw today. Stay with us.


MARCIANO: Special coverage in the CNN NEWSROOM tonight. Tragic, but still hopeful search efforts on Mt. Hood, Oregon.

Here's what we know since three climbers went missing more than a week ago. A body was found today. No I.D. just yet. Authorities say they still believe the other two climbers could be alive.

The body was found in one of two makeshift snow caves. The other cave had a sleeping bag, ice axes and rope. Rescuers also found footprints and a Y-shaped trench made of rope in the snow.

And the air and ground search for the remaining two climbers has been called off for the night, but rescuers intend to bring the body down the mountain on Monday to start the identification process.

And we continue getting new sound and pictures from Oregon. This is the scanner traffic from rescue teams on Mt. Hood today. This is when they found the first snow cave. Take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to figure out how there could be two ice axes there, without two people. Are they tools or are they full-length ice axes? Are you absolutely certain there is nothing else to find?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two Charlotte Mosier ice tools, curved handles, one pad, two runners, one locking carabineer and some anchor strap. That's all that we found. We dug down to old snow and...

LIN: That's all they found. No body in that snow cave.

Now, the last hour, we talked to a man who'd been deeply involved in the rescue and recovery effort. Steve Rollins led a team up Mt. Hood today. He's been part of the search for the past week. And here's what he told us.



STEVE ROLLINS, PART OF SEARCH EFFORT: Yes. My team was just descending from the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We heard the news. You know, obviously very disappointed. This search is probably one of the most frustrating searches I've been on in terms of the weather and avalanche and just not being able to do things that we'd like to be able to do.

LIN: Yes, it just seems like the weather has been -- it's been like a wall of snow and wind in the face of the people trying to get to these climbers.

ROLLINS: Well, I just to tell you, Mother Nature has not been on our side on this one. Especially, you know, we knew that one end of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was supposedly high on the north face, kind of near the summit and the snow cave. We had a rough idea of where that was, but we just couldn't get to it. You know, with the weather being as bad as it was. Even once the weather cleared, we had such high avalanche danger, we had to be very, very cautious up there.

LIN: We don't know how long that carved out Y was in the snow, all right? But we saw a picture of it today. Why wasn't that seen earlier from the air? Is anybody asking that question out there?

ROLLISN: You know, I haven't heard that question yet. The weather has not been good. Even yesterday was supposed to be the first day of our break in the weather. And, you know, I led a team yesterday and walked off with six fingers frostbitten from a minus 52 degrees wind chill.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) mountains is like somewhat obscured with the linticular (ph) clouds. The helicopters, it's been hard for them to see that kind of thing. You just kind of have to get in close. So, it's not too surprising to me.

LIN: So, Steve, what is going be the break here? I mean, two climbers are out there. The Oregon National Guard still insists that there is hope that they might be alive. What is going to be the break that you need? Because most people are saying on such a beautiful day on Mt. Hood today that they would have shown themselves if they could have. ROLLINS: Well, I guess that I would probably agree with that if they were mobile. But, you know, you can still be alive and be incapacitated to the point that you can't get out and walk around and yell for help and that kind of thin.

A friend of mine was stuck on Mt. Stewart, another mountain in the Cascade range, a year ago and they had a helicopter up and she was right on the ridge, waving at them, and the helicopter just didn't see him.

So, you know, this is a very big mountain. You know, 11,000 feet tall. We don't know what side of the mountain the two individuals that went for help might be on. So, you know, it's very challenging.

So, as far as next step, any clues that we can get to indicate what might have happened and where the other two might have gone, that's what we're looking for.

LIN: All right. You take a look at the evidence then. Two snow caves, a body, footprints going up towards the summit, and a set of footprints going down in a circular pattern. Where would you go tomorrow? What would you do next?

ROLLINS: You know, I honestly haven't had a chance to kind of put all the pieces of the puzzle together. And not that -- and I could put my pieces together and come up with a totally different answer. So, as professional rescuers, we're getting together tonight to go through different scenarios, kind of, you know, do some plausible stories and see what we think makes the most sense. And then we decide where we're going to put search teams.

LIN: What would be a story that you would throw out there then at this meeting tonight?

ROLLINS: Gosh, you know, I think there's evidence that suggests the north side. I still think that there is, you know, you could make a good case for the south side. So, I don't -- I think my mind is still open.

LIN: Wow.

ROLLINS: I'm just optimistic.

LIN: And when they announced the finding of this body, I'm just wondering, what does that do to the mood for the search? Does it fire you up? Does it make you more determined? Or are you feeling that you are facing the fury of the situation?

ROLLISN: Well, I've done mountain rescue for 10 years, so I've seen fatalities before. And we obviously knew that that was a possibility. But definitely disappointed, especially -- obviously we care for everybody that we go -- we rescue. We care a great deal. But our entire mountain rescue group, they were all climbers, all skilled climbers. You must be to be in our mountain rescue group. So, you know, when a climber needs help, I think it hits home that much more. And the fact that these were skilled climbers and trying a challenging route, I think it definitely has an impact to all of us. It's definitely disappointing.



MARCIANO: Well, those search and rescue teams will be back on the mountain at daybreak.

Coming up next, we'll check the forecast. Maybe we'll have another good day for search and rescue tomorrow. We'll be right back.


MARCIANO: We're bringing you full coverage tonight on the Mt. Hood tragedy. Here's what we know this hour. Three missing climbers, one anguished week of searching. And the worst news emerged today about one of them.

Emergency crews discovered a snow cave with a body inside. The man's identity has not yet been made public. The search for the other two is off for the tonight, but hopefully -- well, hopeful rescuers will hit the mountain again tomorrow morning.

LIN: That's right. So let's see what the conditions are going to be like on that mountain.

Jacqui Jeras has been covering that part of the story.

Jacqui, they need those sunny skies.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They do. And they'll have them for a good two plus days, we think, Carol, but bitter cold temperatures to greet them in the morning. It's about two degrees below zero right now near the summit.

And tomorrow morning, we're talking double digits, below zero. But clear conditions. This time of the year, we're getting close to the winter solstice. So we have very limited amount of daylight, about 8-1/2 hours they'll have tomorrow.

There you can see stormy conditions off of the coast. And we've got a blocking weather pattern which is going to bring storms up and over the region. So that's some great news. But there is a developing system pulling in from the Gulf of Alaska, which will bring some changes from the middle to latter part of the week.

By Wednesday night into Thursday, we think conditions will be going downhill once again, but not nearly the vigorous storm that we saw on Thursday.

One other hidden danger is the threat of avalanche. We had one to three feet of snowfall from late last week's storm. That on top of a snow path, nearly 100 inches, that creates some very unstable conditions and most avalanches do occur from humans.

So all those rescuers out there, walking around on the mountain, certainly at a bit of a risk due to that. Above 6,000 feet, a very considerable risk for avalanches over the next couple of days. Back to you.

LIN: All right. All right. It's going to be tough to retrieve the body of that missing climber that they found today. All right, thanks very much, Jacqui. We hope for the best for tomorrow.

MARCIANO: Yes, it's been quite a day today. And we certainly hope for better news tomorrow as what we hope for tonight.

LIN: You bet. Well, the conditions are right. And many of the rescuers still optimistic that they'll be able to find the two other missing climbers alive.

MARCIANO: We hope to see that kind of visibility you're seeing right there. It is a beautiful mountain. It is majestic. It is God's country, as they say. But that mountain obviously can be very dangerous and we're seeing ramifications of that right now.

Thanks for staying with us at CNN as we continue our coverage of the missing climbers on Mt. Hood.

LIN: A special "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.

And be sure to watch "AMERICAN MORNING," starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern on CNN, the most trusted name in news.



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