Skip to comments.Mt. Hood Body Identified As Kelly James
Posted on 12/18/2006 8:47:53 AM PST by george76
A missing climber found dead in a snow cave on Mount Hood was identified as a Dallas man who had placed a distress call to relatives a little more than a week ago, a person close to the family said Monday.
Searchers found the cave Sunday near the spot located by cell phone signals traced from Kelly James, who made a four-minute call to his family Dec. 10 just below the summit, said Jessica Nunez, a spokeswoman for the climber's family.
On Monday, a recovery team was expected to retrieve the body, which remained on the mountain over night because darkness made it too dangerous to retrieve. The search for two other climbers also was to resume on the treacherous north side of Oregon's highest mountain.
His body was found in a second snow cave near the first, about 300 feet below the summit. Rescuers found two ice axes, a sleeping bag or pad and rope in the first. It was not known if any gear was in the second cave.
Monday's search would center on possible descent routes on Eliot Glacier and Cooper Spur, relatively lower levels of the mountain, in case the other two got down that far...
"Eliot Glacier is real dangerous so we will do that by air only," Hughes said Monday. "It's a bad avalanche area with crevasses. There are still people in crevasses that have never been recovered."
Searchers dug through the first cave to ensure no one was there and took the equipment, which will be examined for clues. The second cave with the climber's body was found a short time later.
It was not immediately clear which cave was occupied first, or why or when the climber, or climbers, decided to move from it.
(Excerpt) Read more at examiner.com ...
It's been very confusing. First cave dug vs first cave found was giving me a headache.
You can and should use the stove inside the cave.
The main problem is CO. Therefore proper venting for fresh air is important always...not just for the stove.
Outside of the cave with big winds, the stove would not work well or maybe not at all.
I've been busy baking cookies
If you go to post 624219, it has great pictures. I don't know how to post pictures, or I would do it.
I wonder if they'll release the pictures from James's digital camera. Given they took photographs on the summit, it really makes me think the accident occured after the fact.
Come on over. You can help clean up the mess :>)
If they determine the 2 axes found in the so called small "cave" belonged to James then roamer_1's theory is probably the correct theory. All 3 probably started the descent when the accident happened with James being the surviving one. So far this makes the most sense.
Green line is Cooper Spur. Red line is left NF gully. Yellow line is right NF gully. Broad blue squiqqle area is the Eliot Glacier. Orangeish squiggle is the Snowdome.
Thank you. Some have been wondering exactly where the different routes are on the mountain. It looks a bit different now with all the snow however.
Ping to #309
As a point of order, one doesn't just walk along a 65 degree slope. This will be technical ice or rock climbing, rather than the "mountaineering" style you suggest.
Ascent is accomplished by using a belay technique, where one guy is anchored to the slope (the belayor) and the climbers ascend one at a time, with the point (first) climber placing protection points as he goes up. The belayor is the last to go up, being belayed from the top... He collects the protection points as he ascends.
Descent can be accomplished by down-climbing using a belay technique, but is most often completed by rappelling, where one loops the rope behind a sturdy protuberance, and making a controlled descent on the rope. When the last guy is down, simply pulling on one side of the rope or the other will allow the rope to snake down from above.
Traversing is done by a belay technique, with the point climber moving across the slope (placing protection along the way). When the line is sufficiently played out, the point climber sets a second belay point. Those climbers "in the middle" are essentially traversing on a "fixed line". The original belayor then comes across last (belayed by the point), pulling protection.
Climbers are usually on the rope one at a time.
In theory, the belay station is anchored differently than, though adjacent to the belayor... they are on different anchors. While this is the safest way, it isn't always practical. Also, since the belayor is controlling the rope slack, he is in contact with the belay station system anyway.
That all being said, yes, a condition could occur where the "point" and "middle" climber fall at once, and if the belayor is committed to the same anchors as the belay station, it is the belayor's decision to cut the rope, though it is the very last option.
As morbid as it sounds, it is understood, and is a responsibility as well, in order that someone live to tell the tale (for their families sakes).
Very close to your scenario, if I understand you.
>>First of all my deep sympathy to the families of these climbers. I myself climbed with Nikko in 2005 and I have been worrying about him and the other climbers since all this began. Today I still hold a glimmer of hope that Nikko and Brian are found.
Without making any judgment on their actions, I have been contemplating an alternate scenario to what has been discussed up until this point. I have tried to stick to facts and not speculation, but without the climber's to tell us what happened we may never know the whole story. Some of the information we get is presented as fact, and later turns out to be inaccurate. I'm sure as time goes by more factual information will surface and perhaps we will know a little more about the decisions that were made and be able to develop a more informed sequence of events.
All this being said, and using information gleaned from this site as well as from the media, here is an alternate scenario...
Is it possible that all 3 climbers were well when they dug the snow cave on the east side of the mountain? Perhaps they could not find their way to the Gates because of the weather or fatigue. Perhaps they chose to dig-in for the night on the east side to be out of the wind. They faired okay through the night. They arose at some point as the weather worsened and thought they still had a window of opportunity to get off the mountain. The wind was too high to go over the top and down the south side. The three felt they still had a chance and so they did not call for help. Instead, wet from the condensation in the cave, and with a developing storm, they began to descend. They would be cold and shivering as the dampness on their bodies froze. They set up an anchor and began the process to rappel down. An accident occurred. Someone slipped. James attempted to stop the fall, but dislocated his shoulder while holding the fall. His attempt at preventing the fall was unsuccessful. With his last energy and with hypothermia developing, he craws back to the cave. Once inside, he uses the last of his energy to make a desperate call for help on his cell phone.
If it is true that he made statements about Nikko flying and Brian gone for help in town, then perhaps with his condition worsening and with his mind unable to accept what he had seen, this was his mind trying to cope with the accident.
This might explain why the other two never called, the dislocated shoulder, the strained comments made by James.
No judgment here, no criticism of these guys, just another scenario for consideration. If I have missed a crucial piece of fact that contradicts this theory, then I apologize. I mean no harm to anyone. Just seeking closure. I welcome the thoughts of other experienced climbers. <<
ping to self
Hi Abigail Adams,
Happy I am of some service... faint service compared to what I get from this board.
Yeah, probably something like that, though I would opt for an ascent or traverse rather than a descent... Though it is possible they were down-climbing, and therefore needing a belay, descent is usually rappelling, which requires no belay.
I am not terribly familiar with the terrain or the routes on Hood so I would defer... But where they went over, If I read it correctly, was not the best descent- 2000 ft drop into the young end of a glacier sounds like a bad way to go to me. Looks more like they would either go up, or traverse to Cooper's(?) Spur which looks like a much easier descent. Easy=Fast.
Please check post #309. It shows the routes. That's why I asked to have it posted, so we would know the places we are discussing.
The red dot in post #309 is the position of the snow cave.
I respect the fact that people can choose what type of recreation they want. Even if it is very dangerous. I do think that many are lured to this type of activity for the "danger" rush. On another thread they were talking about the costs of the rescue. I realize that rescue organizations are voluntary in many areas. I know the air support is not free though. I think there should be a waiver signed to share some costs. If an ambulance comes to pick me up there is a cost. In this case too it is only reasonable. It is sad for the families. However, it you are going to that type of climbing you have to know you could die. I mean, that's where they get there buzz from right?
I am not qualified to make the call here.
If what I am calling the belay station is left (east) of the snowcave, then it would seem they were traversing to Cooper Spur for a quicker and easier exit... which would also be in line with Nikko's inquiries at cascadeclimbers.com, (It was one of the routes he proposed as an exit), and suggests that they were reasonably on their mark when they commenced descent.
But another thing comes into play too, if they were under pressure:
I can guarantee that some of the known routes are bolted, IOW, have permanent bolts to clip to in opportune places...
They may have been trying for a bolted route for descent, as they could descend quickly, perhaps having to sacrifice a beener (carabiner) on every pitch, but that would be cheap for a quick descent...
They might also have been ascending to the summit, as that would get them quickly to the east/southeast side, lee of the storm, which would be coming in from West/Northwest (center/right).
Sorry, I could be all wet. One would best get an opinion from the local boys.
I wouldn't ask a question on that site to save my life. ;>) I haven't even registered....just lurked!
LOL! yah, probably quite wise on your part. Climbers are a cliquish bunch, and don't suffer fools well.
In their defense, they are normally pretty good people (the serious ones anyway), and are admirable for the assistance they are always willing to offer. They tend to abundantly observe the need for hospitality in the backwoods. They "get" it.
Unfortunately, you are meeting them under the worst circumstance- They are in deep pain right now. This kind of thing is a shock-wave to their entire community, and they dare not turn away from it either.
They must critique it and dissect it as impersonally as possible for the lessons to be learned. This could have happened to any of them (including me).
I read your scenario, sj, and had previously read roamer's. Correct me, either of you, but don't we all agree that the 3 were likely ok when they built the real snow cave and sheltered there?
They had been to the summit we know that.
So all that was left was for them to get down, and they obviously had to have concerns about the weather. Question was, how best and quickest to get down, and what actions would they take to get in position to go their chosen route, and what part would the degree of terrible weather play in their ability to do this.
SJ you had them attempting to decend and an accident occurring with only James left alive or at least functioning and at that location. Roamer has them either ascending or traversing and an accident occurring. This I'm sure would have been for the purpose of getting to where they COULD descend the mountain by whatever route they chose.
I don't see very much difference between you. Hope I'm not missing something.
Finally, some have speculated that they meant to descend by one route but MISSED that one and, overtaken by the severe weather, were trying an alternate one that was available, whether it was best or not. Anything at that point to get down.
I also think it matters IF the axes left behind in the "not a real cave" location belong to Kelly James (if they do) and that that would fit roamer's scenario.
Last nite on MSNBC they had an hour special on this. One guest, a rescuer said the 2 axes found in the "not real cave location" were that of Kelly James. He said that in the "real cave" where his body was found he had no equipment with him. If this is the case then this means all 3 were healthy when they left the "real cave", some sort of accident happened with all 3, Kelly being the only one left, hurt and probably in some sort of shock after witnessing the probable loss of his friends somehow made it back to the "real cave" from the "not so real cave" leaving his axes behind.
And I would guess Kelly did not live past the following Tuesday or thereabouts. Remember it was said, and I think confirmed, that his cell phone was turned on Tues. although no call was forthcoming and it went off again. People wanted to believe that he was using it as a signal so his location could be reiterated after his original call, or they wanted to believe that he would have made a call but the battery must have died. I'm thinking he was in his last moments of conciousness before losing it forever. That it was his only way of reaching out for those he loved in those final moments.
They said the phone was found "waterlogged". I wonder if the phone shorted out on Tuesday because of the water.
Is there a transcript of his call posted anywhere? I haven't been able to find one. If it's in this thread then I keep missing it.
Some very interesting ideas, everyone!
So those 2 axes belonged to James? My big question is, how could he traverse over from the small cave to the larger one without an axe? It seems improbable that he could just walk upright with no support, and with a dislocated shoulder.
This also negates one of the theories at the climbers' forum, where they suggest perhaps he dislocated his shoulder in a self-arrest, which would mean he had an axe in his hand of the arm that got injured. Right? Or is this still a possibility?
How does the possibly cut rope fit into all this?
So, maybe someone could offer up a slightly revised theory based on the new information about the axes? I'm feeling a little confused as my brain is full of things I need to do for Christmas.
Unfortunately, I don't think they'll find the two climbers until spring.
Another tidbit, someone on the climbers' forum who was part of the summit rescue team said that in the large cave where James was found, there was not enough equipment, or the right kind of equipment, to survive for any amount of time up there in the cold and at altitude. I guess the fact that they packed only for a fast and light climb ended up leaving them in a very precarious situation.
To clarify my position:
Yes, I believe they were trying to descend, to get down.
I do not believe they were "on descent" (actually going down). My reason is that one would not normally find two or more people attached to the rope in a standard rappel. By it's nature (at least, normally), only one person is involved with the rope on rappel- That being the guy that is on the rope. The other players would be individually secured and out of the way of the action.
In ascent and traverse moves (as well as down-climbing, as opposed to rappel), it is more likely to have two, or even three people involved with the rope, thereby a more likely scenario for taking two men off the slope, and leaving the third injured.
I would also attempt to refine the route scenarios:
According to CC (cascadeclimbers.com), Their actual intent was to ascend the north face and exit on the south slope, with an emergency exit of Cooper Spur.
I might add that "emergency exit" can be read as "alternate", or "secondary" exit. If, for whatever reason, their primary exit route is compromised, one would expect to find them on the second.
I believe the evidence shows they had decided not to use their primary exit. That means they were probably trying to get to Cooper Spur.
I also believe that they were in less than good conditions. It seems easier, from a technical point of view, to ascend to the summit and then descend Cooper Spur, but they stayed off the summit and traversed the face instead- That would imply alot of wind on the summit, or some lack of visibility at the least.
As a final possibility, they may have opted to go back down the way they came up- They would still be on their route (where they said they'd be) and might be more comfortable with terrain they intimately knew.
Other route scenarios would imply a high degree of desperation, as they would really try to be where they had said they were going to be (that's just how it is done).
Collecting and reposting these snippets from roamer_1 for clarity:
What seems most likely is that the first "cave" they found was a protected belay position or anchor-end for a traverse, and that James was there awaiting his turn (perhaps on belay). Perhaps a piece of the cornice broke away, perhaps there was a slip, or an avalanche...
While James survived, he was horribly injured and left his station without collecting his various gear, and made his way to the only shelter available- The snow cave from the previous night.
If those picks are James' (which is likely), the fact they were both out indicates he was healthy at the time, and using two arms. I believe he was on belay, and something happened to sweep the line down the hill with enough force to hurt him if his hand/arm was caught in a coil.
If they were on a long line, belay can last quite a while, so it is not uncommon to shelter the position and pull out your ground pad to sit upon while one belay...
The ice axes are what bother me. nobody would leave them behind on purpose. They come in pairs and are used in each hand. One sinks each axe into the snow/ice, then kicks in each foot. It is awfully hard going without one's axes, especially if breaking new route. The only time they would be laid aside is by the belayor, as he is anchored off, and they are not necessary then. If they are James' axes, he was probably on belay.
Actually--It wasn't my scenario, I copied and pasted from cascadeclimbers.com.
It's from a Dallas newspaper, and I don't have the link. Maybe you could do a Google search?
Some tidbits from an article at Oregon Live:
Rescuers from the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 304th Rescue Squadron who found James in his snow cave said he had a thin lightweight waterproof sack, but no sleeping bag and no warm insulated jacket. ...
Pictures taken with a disposable camera found with James show two sets of tracks in the snow side by side, indicating one of the climbers may have been assisting one of his partners, presumably James, up the slope, Wampler said. ...
From the summit, they would have been able to walk down as far as they safely could as darkness came on Friday night, Dec. 8, and build a snow cave where they spent the night without sleeping bags.
Henderson thinks the men set up a base camp above the Tilly Jane trail head and below the point they started the most technical part of the climb. Any such camp would be buried under two feet of new and drifted snow by now.
On Saturday morning, Dec. 9, Cooke and Hall likely traversed across the mountain, Henderson said, and then chopped an indentation into the snow where they could affix anchors for a descent down the Cooper Spur route.
The matched pair of ice axes discovered Sunday by rescuers indicates strong winds, estimated at up to 100 mph, could have "blown away" the climber above, Henderson said.
"To leave the ice axes was not intentional," he said. "They are essential tools for climbing, one for each hand. On a hard face like that, you don't leave your tools."
>>The matched pair of ice axes discovered Sunday by rescuers indicates strong winds, estimated at up to 100 mph, could have "blown away" the climber above, Henderson said.
"To leave the ice axes was not intentional," he said. "They are essential tools for climbing, one for each hand. On a hard face like that, you don't leave your tools." <<
I'm reading this to mean, that the ice axes did not belong to Kelly James then. He says that Hall and Cooke were traversing.
I'm sorry, but I can't find the article at that link?
Never mind, it worked the second time.
An "animated" account of what they think might have happened. (Not much new info.):
From Cascade climbers.com From one of the rescuers:
>.Quick update: sorry but again i have not read every page to see what is being discussed..bear with me. Again it would help to limit speculation at least to the folks that were there.
James did not have a sleeping bag or bivy sack. His backpack was under his torso, no insulation under his feet. Extreme living conditions existed. This is what i meant as limited equipment if you find my last posting. I did not see a stove. For all those ready to critique his gear requirements, I have also done similar routes with limited resources.
A few comments on SAR and how we plan a search may help some folk.
ONE method is to use POA (probability of Area ) and POD (probability of Detection). After looking at all the AVAILABLE facts, the search area is divided into sections. Each section is given a POA priority ie the highest priority section is searched first etc. Each team going into the field has to ask/answer questions like,
what is the percent chance that i can see/hear the missing person?
what is the percent chance that the missing person can see/hear me?
what is the percent chance that the person is consious/unconsious?
what is the percent chance that the person would be moving if s/he could.?
All these effect the probability of detection. If its cold and you are injured, you might be holed up in a tree well and so the POD is low and lower yet if you are unconsious. Please if this happenes to you. Mark the nearest Tress or Rock with some marker.
OK so when you get back to SAR base and report in, all this info is takedn down. A POA of 1 with a POD of 50% means another team will go search the same area to try to bring up the POD to a number where we can say we think s/he is not there. At any time the Sheriff can look at the map and see POA and POD as each day developes. POA's are also subject to change as more data becomes available.....hope this is clear.
On climbing, passion in this world is everything and also sadly lacking. In my experience, people that find passion in the mountains bring it down with them and share that passion with others, many non climbers. Many people would have you stay safe in your house, live without passion if it means nothing bad would happen to you..and suddenly you are 80 years old and have done nothing passionate with your life. I am not saying that you have to climb to have passion, you can be passionate about reading. Both its clear that these men were passionate about climbing among other things....sorry to veer off the climbing facts.
Quick note to Debra Leming-Ross ....Mark is one dedicated person.
Very Solid and a honor to work with.
Sean for you and all of the guys on the summit you are my heros. My brother was with you. I have the highest respect for all of you and what you do for people. I hope you are as proud of yourselves as we are of you.
Debra Leming-Ross <<
In reading the article. Everything in his conversation seemed to make sense except the part about his friends. He had the wits to call, and call the right number. I don't know. I don't get it.
Reading what he said, gives me the creeps. It sounds like he was calling for help, and maybe to say goodbye? Why wouldn't he call 911? The statement about his friends wasn't the only untruth was it? He said he wasn't injured, only exhausted.
>>Thanks luzi3, to confirm what he said, I was on the team that got inserted at the summit and was actually one of the two folk that found James ie I was actually in the cave on Sunday. So those were the facts. <<
This scenario, is what was actually observed by the SAR.
"He said he wasn't injured, only exhausted."
Yes, when it came to their personal conditions or whereabouts he was confusing whereas the other statements made sense.
Perhaps he didn't need to dial a number but had pre-programmed numbers to just push one button and reach his family.
If he understood anything at all, he understood that calling 911 was useless as no emergency help could get to him. It was not useless to him to reach out to his family, however.
I think he was so numbed by the cold and shock he perhaps was not cognizant of his injury. At least not by the time he made the call.