Missing Climbers Brought to Safety on Mount Hood

A pair of climbers who misjudged the weather and got caught in whiteout conditions on Mount Hood were brought to safety Tuesday after a night in a snow cave.

The two said they didn't make it to the summit of the 11,239-foot mountain on Monday because the weather closed in when they were at about 10,000 feet.

"We thought we had a window in the weather, but we were wrong," said Justin Votos, 27.

His companion was Matthew Pitts, 28. Both are from Portland.

They talked to sheriff's deputies and reporters after rescuers led them out of the woods Tuesday. Then they loaded their Jeep Cherokee to drive off the mountain.

After running into trouble Monday, the two said, they descended toward Timberline Lodge — which is at 6,000 feet — where they had parked their vehicle, but they missed the lodge. They dug a snow cave at what they estimated was about 5,000 feet.

On Tuesday morning, they resumed their descent and came upon a geocache with GPS gear that allowed them to report their location to rescuers via cell phone.

Detective Jim Strovink of the Clackamas County sheriff's office said the location was reported when the hikers were near Enid Lake — less than a mile from U.S. 26, the major highway south of Mount Hood.

The two said they had reached the summit of Mount Hood in previous climbs. They didn't carry locators on this climb, saying they didn't think they would need it. But they vowed to carry the equipment when they make their next attempt at the summit.

Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest peak, attracts thousands of climbers. More than 35 have died in the past quarter century.

Three out-of-state climbers died in December 2006 after getting caught in a blizzard on the mountain's dangerous north side. Rollins said the route the two men took on Monday requires less technical climbing than the north-side route.

Two months later, three hikers and a dog named Velvet were saved after falling over an icy ledge.