All clear: Helicopter takes off in search for Mt. Hood climber - KPTV - FOX 12

Weather clears for helicopter in search for Mt. Hood climber

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Photo: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Photo: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office
GOVERNMENT CAMP, OR (KPTV) -

The weather finally cleared enough Thursday for a Black Hawk helicopter to take off and search Mount Hood for a missing climber.

Kinley Adams, a 59-year-old dentist from Salem, hasn't been heard from since last weekend.

Clackamas County Sgt. Robert Wurpes said rescuers remain optimistic about finding the experienced climber, but they've been frustrated with the uncooperative weather.

Ground search crews continued to comb the lower elevations, and they expanded their search area Thursday.

"The search area has almost doubled to tripled in size, if we're looking at square footage or miles," Wurpes said. "We want to make sure we give Mr. Adams every opportunity, and that we cover every square inch that we can safely."

With temperatures warming up, crews were digging small pits and testing the stability of the snow in order to assess avalanche risk.

Maj. Chris Bernard, from the U.S. Air Force Reserve 304th Rescue Squadron, said ground rescuers report only 50 feet visibility, and snow conditions that are unstable.

"All the pararescue men are trained in high altitude climbing," Bernard said. "They're all paramedics or better in terms of their medical training, so I'm real confident if we find him, we can take care of him, and get him off this mountain."

In addition to a National Guard helicopter stationed on the mountain, a Chinook helicopter is on standby in Pendleton. Deputies hoped to take it to the summit of the mountain Thursday, so rescuers could work their way down.

Before the helicopter finally launched Thursday, they hadn't been able to reach the summit since Sunday.

"That's been real frustrating for us, but we remain optimistic," Wurpes said before the helicopter took off around 4 p.m. "Our hearts go out to the family involved here. We know this is very frustrating and a tough time for them, but they've been incredibly supportive, and we really appreciate that."

Friends and family told FOX 12 Adams is an experienced climber who was fully equipped for the trip, but he was missing one key item.

Adams' locator beacon, which rescuers had been trying to hone in on, was found at Adams' Salem home. If he had the device on him when he went missing, crews would have known his exact location. Sheriff's deputies said Adams had checked off on his climbing list that he had a beacon, meaning it may have simply been a packing error.

More search volunteers are expected to show up as the weekend approaches, and the sheriff's office said the rescue effort will continue.

"We plan to go full tilt on this mission through Sunday," Wurpes said.

Earlier this year, a woman vanished on Mount Hood but survived six nights on the mountain.

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