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Helicopter used to search for 2 Oregon climbers

GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. - GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. (AP) — Searchers used a helicopter Sunday to search for two missing climbers on Oregon's Mount Hood and were preparing take rescue and medical teams back to the area on a second try.

Capt. Stephen Bomar, an Oregon Army National Guard spokesman, said he didn't know if the crew of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter had spotted the climbers. It is "still on ongoing rescue," he said.

The two climbers along with another man went up the mountain on Friday. Crews found the third climber's body on Saturday.

The weather forecast for Sunday called for slightly warming temperatures with snow fall tapering off and chances of improved visibility.

The two missing climbers were heading up an especially treacherous face of the mountain.

Rescuers decided not to head out on foot because of concern that there could be an avalanche in the higher elevations of the 11,249-foot mountain. An Oregon National Guard helicopter was used instead to try to spot the missing climbers, said Steve Rollins, a Portland Mountain Rescue leader.

"Nobody is going to want to tromp around in that snow," Rollins said.

The two climbers — Anthony Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., and Katti Nolan, 29, of Portland — along with Luke T. Gullberg, 26, of Des Moines, Wash., began their ascent on the west side of the mountain about 1 a.m. Friday. They were due back in the afternoon but failed to return. All three climbers were described as experienced and well-equipped.

Teams on Saturday found Gullberg's body around 9,000-foot, said Jim Strovink, Clackamas County sheriff's spokesman. Strovink said it was transported off the mountain by rescue crews and a forensic examination was planned. No details were released on how he died or the condition of the body.

About 30 searchers focused Saturday on the area around Reid Glacier in "cold, icy and treacherous" weather conditions with visibility levels too low to conduct an air search, Strovink said.

Mount Hood, the tallest mountain in Oregon, is a popular site among climbers in the United States. In 25 years, it has been the site of dozens of climbing accidents and fatalities. The worst on record happened in May 1986 when nine people — seven students from Oregon Episcopal School and two adults — died after they dug a snow cave during a sudden storm.

The latest search comes almost exactly three years after another trio of experienced climbers died on Mount Hood during a December 2006 blizzard.

The latest climbers did not have a radio locator beacon but they did have a cell phone that was briefly activated about 1:30 a.m. Friday as the climbers were leaving Timberline Lodge to begin their ascent, Strovink said.

Rollins, the Portland Mountain Rescue official, said a locator beacon would have been helpful in this case but many rescuers oppose a mandate to carry them because they believe it will lead some climbers to take risks they otherwise would avoid.

"And that increases the risks to rescuers," he said.

Rollins noted that climbers often receive good signals on their cell phones on areas of the mountain but the phones sometimes lack enough power to send out a call or message.

"It's frustrating," Rollins said, "when you can see all the way to Salem or beyond and wonder how many cell tower sites are out there."


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