Monday, December 18, 2006

Climber Found Dead On Mt. Hood

I watched CNN for several hours yesterday afternoon as they covered the search for three (3) missing mountain climbers on Mt. Hood in Oregon. The focus of their search was a snow cave that was spotted by a rescue helicopter the night before. When a rescue team reached the snow cave they found Kelly James, a 48-year-old climber from Dallas Texas, dead inside the cave. Some faint footprints were also seen in the snow, so mountain rescue personnel began following those footprint tracks in the hope they would lead them to another snow cave where the other two mountain climbers might be found alive.

Snow, while beautiful to look at, can be dangerous on a tall mountain like Mt. Hood in Oregon in the wintertime. Adventurous souls, like Kelly James, know the risk of climbing a challenging slope like Mt. Hood in the winter months and unfortunately when there is a big change in the weather, mountain climbers are often trapped and die of exposure before help can arrive to rescue them. While I often times criticize the sensational coverage provided the three major cable news networks in the United States, they are at their best when covering a live breaking news event like the massive rescue efforts on Mt. Hood, yesterday. I was disappointed that MSNBC decided to show old reruns of “Headliners and Legends” instead of covering this breaking news event. However, it has been a long time since I have trusted MSNBC when it comes to covering a live event.

Today, rescue workers will once again risk their lives in an effort to save the remaining two missing climbers on Mt. Hood. There is no way to repay these brave men and women who take their lives into their own hands to save other people they don’t even know. I consider myself a warm climate type of person and while I love to watch the snowfall outside, I prefer to watch it from the comfort of a warm building. Mountain climbing is a dangerous profession even when there are perfect weather conditions for the climb. While bad stormy weather was not a concern for these three climbers when they began their climb of Mt. Hood over 10 days ago, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse and when that happened these climbers found themselves in harms way. Without hope of a fast rescue because of this terrible storm, these three men were forced to put their training and experience to the test in order to survive until there was a positive break in the weather.

There is always a chance for a miracle and without a doubt that is what keeps rescue workers going when all hope seems to be lost for the other two climbers. Time is definitely not on the side of the families and rescue workers that want nothing more than to find these remaining two men, alive. Another problem for the rescue workers and helicopters involved in this search is the short December days we are all witnessing right now. I noticed the other day how quickly it becomes dark this time of year. These short days make the job of searching for mountain climbers more difficult because no one wishes to take the extra risk of searching at night for these missing men. Like all people, I wish to offer my condolences to the family of Kelly James and while no words will bring them comfort at this tragic time in their lives, eventually they will find solace that Kelly lost his life doing something he really enjoyed.

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