Mount Hood Rescuer: Three Climbers 'Cold but Mobile'

The three Mount Hood climbers stranded in howling winds and blinding snow are "cold but mobile," one of their rescuers told Monday.

Steve Rollins, a leader with Portland Mountain Rescue — which handles Mount Hood search-and-rescue efforts — is on the second team of first responders to the crisis, which began Sunday when the climbers fell off a ridge. He was waiting for the first team to arrive with the two women and one man in tow when he spoke to about 4:30 p.m. EST.

"I'm on the mountain right now, stuck in a snow cave," he said in a phone interview. "It's still snowing with high winds and low visibility. We're on team two, up on the ridge waiting for the climbers to descend down through the canyon and then will see if we're needed."

Rollins didn't expect the trio of beleaguered climbers to get there for at least another couple of hours, he said, so he didn't have many details on their condition.

"I don't know, other than [they're] cold but mobile," he told

His unit was taking shelter from the bitter weather conditions in a snow cave on the mountain's ridge, at an altitude of about 6,500 feet, he said. The rescued climbers were being escorted out of the canyon below, so they were actually coming from a lower point of about 5,900 feet, Rollins said.

Earlier Monday, confirmed that rescuers found the climbers and had begun bringing them down Mount Hood.

"Apparently all is well," Jim Strovink, a spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, told "The good news is that they’re located and they’re coming down the mountain."

All three were reported to be doing OK when they were found, he said.

"I spoke to the mother of one of the climbers up there in the mountain. When I told her that, she expressed 'Thank God' — that about summed it up," Strovink said. "We’re glad we did it and it’s successful and congratulations to all."

Russell Gubele, coordinating communications for the rescue operation, said in a cable news interview that the three were found huddling with their dog Velvet. They had sleeping bags and mats, he said, and were under some rocks, huddled up trying to keep warm.

Gubele said the climbers' mountain locator unit helped rescuers find their position and they stayed in contact because the climbers had a cell phone.

"We knew where they were," he said. "The weather was really bad. It was a matter of getting the teams down there to them, which we were finally able to do in these severe weather conditions and extreme avalanche conditions."

The rescuers, about 30 in all, had been trying to beat a snow storm expected to dump 12 to 16 inches on the area beginning later in the day.

Photo Essays: Mount Hood Rescue Mission

The three well-equipped climbers fell off a ledge Sunday. Rescue officials were in frequent cell phone contact with them.

Rescuers moved into the White River Canyon, where the climbers took shelter behind rocks during the night, earlier Monday. They were moving cautiously because of a "very severe avalanche danger," Gubele said earlier.

Rescuers, some of whom had spent the night on the mountain, had reached the general area earlier Monday, battling wind up to 70 mph, but decided to wait until daybreak because they couldn't see anything, Gubele said, and "it's extremely treacherous up where they are. One false step could be not good."

The three who fell were part of an eight-person party that set out on Saturday, camped on the mountain that night, and then began to come back down on Sunday when they ran into bad weather, officials said.

As they were descending, the three slipped off a ledge and fell about 100 feet. Someone in the party placed an emergency call to authorities.

Although the climbers seemed well prepared, officials still were worried.

"There's always danger of exposure on Mount Hood," Gubele said.

Sgt. Sean Collinson, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said the two women appeared to have suffered some bumps and bruises and their male companion is in good condition. He said all three "were in fairly good spirits when we talked to them on the phone."

The five rescued climbers were taken down to Timberline Lodge, a ski resort at the 6,000-foot level of Mount Hood, and all are reported in good condition, the sheriff's office said in an e-mail.

At a news conference at the lodge, one of the rescued climbers, Trevor Liston, of Portland, said he was optimistic for companions still on the mountain: "So far, they're doing pretty good up there from what we've heard."

Liston said he saw the three fall but didn't say how it happened.

The mountain can be treacherous, particularly in the winter. In December, search teams scoured Mount Hood for days in the hopes of finding a group of missing climbers alive. The bodies of Brian Hall, of Dallas, and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, of New York, have not been found. Another climber in their group, Kelly James, of Dallas, died of hypothermia.

In the past 25 years, more than 35 climbers have died on the 11,239-foot mountain, one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world.'s Catherine Donaldson-Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.