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A U.S. army Black Hawk helicopter hovers above Mount Hood near Government Camp, Ore., on Dec. 16, searching for three missing climbers. ((Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press))

Rescue teams gave up any hope of finding two missing climbers alive on Oregon's stormy Mount Hood and abandoned the frustrating, nine-day-old search Wednesday.

"We've done everything we can at this point," said Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler.

Wampler said the men's families made the decision to end the search.He said the operation is now a "recovery effort."

'We've done everything we can at this point.'—Sheriff Joe Wampler

Three climbers in all were reported missing in the snow onOregon's highest peakon 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's 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 the3,425-metre mountain for new clues and finding none.

Even before the sheriff spoke, all of the volunteers had returned to their regular lives and helicopters used in the search had returned to their bases.