Three snowshoers who got lost on their way to a cabin on Mount Hood reunited with their families Monday afternoon.
Mark Kelsey, Margarita Estrada and Deborah Shindler all have experience climbing in the snow, which helped them survive without injury, Kelsey in particular.
"The irony of all this is I put in 18 years with mountain rescue," said Kelsey, who estimates he has summated Mount Hood 456 times. "I get to deal with the fact that mountain rescue came to rescue me, came to help our group out. I can work with the irony of that later on."
The trio called 911 for help Sunday afternoon, after setting out on a trail from White River snow park Saturday morning.
The camping trip was to celebrate Estrada's birthday.
"The reality of that is, with all seriousness, the trail doesn't exist," said Kelsey. "We had to make our trail. That's what kept us out there longer, kept us pushing harder. I mean, we were across streams, side-hilling. There were times when our GPS said we were making .3 miles an hour."
Kelsey said they had the gear to stay safe, but grew tired mentally and physically. Cell service was spotty, but they were able to make a 911 call and give dispatchers their GPS coordinates around 12:58 p.m. Saturday.
Because of poor cell phone coverage, there was no contact with the snowshoers after the initial 911 call.
Search teams set out to look for the group Sunday, but had to call off the search because of poor weather conditions and, eventually, darkness setting in.
Meanwhile, Kelsey, Estrada and Shindler created a debris shelter to stay the night.
"Basically what we did is find a tree with a well, not too big, not too small so we could get in it," Kelsey described. "Went about laying branches up against, forming almost a teepee."
Kelsey said the branches and falling snow created some insulation for them, but said it was far from comfortable.
"It's survival, it will keep you alive. It's not the Hilton," he said.
Hood River Crag Rats and Portland Mountain Rescue spotted the trio Monday morning. They were about four miles down the canyon from Highway 35.
"They were like angels coming down the road, they really were," said Estrada. "Because I thought we were done. We had no more propane, very little food. Just one chance to make one call. We made that call and thank God we got through."
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