Mt. Hood Search Now Recovery Mission

Posted on: December 17, 2009


Mt. Hood (11,249'), Oregon, where Luke Gullberg, Anthony Vietti and Katie Nolan went missing on December 11. Though Gullberg's body was found, search operations—now ceased—for Vietti and Nolan were unsuccessful. Teams hope to recover the missing bodies when avalanche conditions improve.

An unsuccessful search-and-rescue mission for two climbers missing on Mt. Hood (11,249') has ceased formally and is now in "recovery mode."

When Luke Gullberg (26), Anthony Vietti (24) and Katie Nolan (29) did not return as expected on Friday, December 11, Portland Mountain Rescue assembled three search teams at 4:30 a.m. the next morning. One team found three sets of tracks that day after crossing Illumination Saddle; the tracks led to the base of the 1,500-foot Reid Headwall, where the search team found Gullberg's body at ca. 9,000'. He had suffered a fall and died of exposure.

Following tracks further led to Gullberg's equipment, including his camera and cell phone, which provided some clues about the incident and confirmed all three climbers had reached the Reid Glacier. One theory suggests that an incident higher on the mountain persuaded Gullberg to rappel and get help.

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But continued searches for Vietti and Nolan turned up nothing, and on December 13, snowfall decreased visibility and increased avalanche danger, delaying rescue operations. A series of storms since has dumped more than two feet of snow on the mountain. Aerial searches by helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft were unsuccessful in locating the climbers.

Sheriff Craig Roberts of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office in Oregon announced cessation of the rescue yesterday afternoon.

"One of the most difficult decisions I have to make as Sheriff is the decision to suspend search operations," he said in a press release. "I have consulted with all of the search-and-rescue experts at my disposal, along with the family members of Katie Nolan and Anthony Vietta, and have made the decision."

On Tuesday, rescuers said that avalanche danger would keep them grounded from searching the upper mountain by foot until the weekend, at earliest.

Sources: web12.clackamas.us, pmru.org, latimesblogs.latimes.com, ktvb.com, climbing.com



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