HOOD RIVER, Ore. (AP) - Rescue teams gave up any hope of finding two missing climbers alive on stormy Mount Hood and abandoned the frustrating, 9-day-old search Wednesday.
"We've done everything we can at this point," said Sheriff Joe Wampler, choking back tears after returning from one last, fruitless flyover of the 11,239-foot peak.
Wampler said the men's families made the decision to end the search as yet another snowstorm barreled in.
"It was pretty much their conclusion. The chance of survival is pretty nil. I don't think I can justify putting any more people in the field with the hope of finding them alive," the sheriff said.
He said the operation is now a "recovery effort."
Three climbers in all were reported missing in the snow on Mount Hood on Dec. 11. One of them, 48-year-old Dallas landscape architect Kelly James, was found dead in a snow cave on Monday. Volunteers continued scouring the mountains for signs of James' climbing partners, Brian Hall, 37, and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, 36. But climbing gear found on the peak suggested the two may have been swept to their deaths.
Wampler announced the end of the search after personally piloting a Piper Cub over the mountain for new clues and finding none - no tracks, no signs of snow caves, no other debris.
"Right now things are moving in from the west," he said of the snowstorm. "That window has shut on us."
Even before the sheriff spoke, all of the volunteers had returned to regular lives and helicopters used in the search had returned to their bases.