Rescuers: Stranded Mount Hood climbers were novices


Volunteers who helped rescue five men from Mount Hood said the climbers were well-equipped, but ill-prepared to tackle whiteout conditions.

Rescuer Steve Rollins told The Oregonian newspaper that the climbers carried all the right gear, but not all of them knew how to use it. He also said the men were unfamiliar with the mountain's geographic features.

"These guys had the correct equipment &

maps, compass, altimeter, cell phone, mountain locator unit," he said. "They knew a storm was coming in. Once again, we have a group not appreciate the strength of storms on Mount Hood."

The climbers, who used a cell phone to call for help Saturday night, were identified as Brian Anderson, 24, of Portland; Ben Elkind, 22, of Lake Oswego; Bryce Benge, 29, of Lake Oswego; Jeremiah West, 28, of Portland; and Brian Weihs, 39, of Hillsboro.

All were in good condition when they reached Timberline Lodge just before midnight, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said.

Rollins said the men told rescuers that they had no experience climbing Mount Hood during a storm. Rollins said that's a no-no: "You don't climb in a storm without prior experience."

Rocky Henderson, a Portland Mountain Rescue volunteer, said he spoke with one of the climbers by cell phone Saturday night. Henderson said the climbers failed to use their GPS tracking tools to find their way.

Judith Deitz, the mother of Jeremiah West, told The Oregonian that this was her son's first major climb after joining the Mazamas mountaineering group.

"He has been getting ready for this climb with this group of people for some time now," she said.

Mount Hood has been the site of several high-profile rescues in the past six months. In February, three climbers and a dog fell from a ledge, but were rescued after a cold night.

In December, one climber was killed and two are missing and presumed dead after climbing the mountain's more dangerous north side.

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