Missing Mount Hood climber's family: 'He knows how to survive'

Weather forced search and rescue crews to once again postpone their search for Kinley Adams at higher elevations on Mount Hood Tuesday afternoon.

Crews expanded their search area below 9,000 feet, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said.

Adams, a 59-year-old Salem dentist, was due back from a climb Saturday afternoon, but never returned. Unfavorable weather has limited crews' efforts, though both searchers and his family remain optimistic he's still alive and awaiting help in a snow cave.

"He can take a lot of misery," said Adams' wife, Lorraine. "So I worry that it's been a long time, and it's cold and wet, but I'm pretty confident that he can handle it.

"He knows how to survive. He's had all of those classes, the avalanche classes."

Early Tuesday morning, a small break in the weather allowed the crews to change their tactics and begin their search at higher elevations. Unsafe weather conditions forced them to postpone their search.

One member of the search party, Master Sgt. Richard Oberster of the 304th Rescue Squadron, was on his second day with the crew. He said the team made it as high as 10,000 feet.

Oberster said the searchers spent about an hour at that height, blowing whistles in an attempt to draw Adams' attention. It was a near white-out, with visibility at about 50 feet. Because the snow was very compact, the team was optimistic Adams might have been able to dig a snow cave in which to ride out the wait, though his family said he didn't bring a shovel.

The searchers planned to work their way down the mountain as the weather grew worse over the course of the day. They postponed the search just before 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, but planned to continue the search through at least Wednesday and Thursday if necessary.

Search coordinators plan to continue looking for Adams through the weekend. A National Guard helicopter is on standby.

Adams has spent a great deal of time on Mount Hood recently in preparation for a trip to Nepal, making the trip as often as every two weeks, so his family knew to call rescue crews immediately when he didn't return as scheduled on Saturday at 3 p.m.

"We are trusting God to take care of him," Lorraine Adams said. "And our other blessing is through ski patrol and other things, we know so many people who are in the search and rescue community."

Crews were hoping the weather would break enough Tuesday that they would be able to send a National Guard helicopter up the mountain, but it became increasingly unlikely as the morning wore on. A team of eight searchers left early Tuesday morning in Snowcats, which took them near Crater Rock and Reid Headwall.

Another eight climbers left on skis at 8 a.m. but limited their search to lower elevations after the first crew's experience with poor weather.

Adams' sister, Cherie Goetz, spoke with KATU by phone Monday night as she sat surrounded by family.

"He has a very strong faith," she said. "I know that will get him through. He knows what to do to hunker in there.

"I picked up his sons at the airport and we're trying to decide if we should go up to the mountain. The longer he is missing, the harder it is to just sit here and wait. It's very hard to wait, really hard."

The family decided to head up to the mountain on Tuesday to thank the rescue crews.

Goetz said the family is drawing hope from Mary Owen, who was trapped on the mountain for six days three months ago and surivived.

"We're hanging on to the fact that if that woman could do it, he can do it."

Mount Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon at 11,239 feet and a popular climbing destination.

The Clackamas County sheriff's office is coordinating a search by Portland Mountain Rescue, volunteers from Mountain Wave Communications, American Medical Response Reach and Treat Team, and Hood River Crag Rats.

Adams registered in the climbing log in Timberline Lodge and said he planned to climb the Leuthold Couloir route. He is an experienced climber who has climbed that route before, Thompson said.

"He likes being outside and, well, away from people, I think sometimes," said Adams' son, Brock. "He's climbed and hiked longer than I've been alive.

"He's been going up and down Hood so much recently, he kind of has his routine just to go out and do it, so I think half of it's just exercise like going out for a long run."