Three stranded climbers safely made their way down Oregon's highest mountain Monday, thanks to a team of rescuers and their black Labrador retriever.
The climbers spentSunday night huddled in sleeping bags on Mount Hood,bracing themselves from blowing snow and winds that gusted at 113 kilometres per hour. Their dog, Velvet, kept the triowarm by lying across their bodies.
"We're soaking wet and freezing," one of the climbers said Monday, as she made her way into an ambulance moments after her rescue.
Officials later released two of the climbers' names — 34-year-old teachers Matty Bryant and Kate Hanlon of the Portland area. They were not injured. Their companion, a woman whose name was not released, was treated at a Portland hospital for head injuries.
The trio was part of a group of eight climbers who set out Saturday to climb and camp on the mountain. As they made their descent Sunday, they ran into stormy weather and the triofell off a ledge, sliding 150 metres.
The three climberswere holding onto a rope when they slipped. Their dog, which was clipped to the rope, was also dragged down. After their initial fall,the three and their dogended up roaming severalkilometres away.
"They're lucky to be alive," said Jim Strovink, a spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.
Theother five climberscould not find the trio after the fall and called for help on their cellphones.
A team of rescuers arrived but was hampered by severe weather and the threats of avalanches, said Russell Gubele, who co-ordinated the rescue. He said rescuers made it close to the three climbers Sunday night, but waited until Monday to continue because the snow was blinding.
Throughout the ordeal, rescuers kept in touch with thelost climbers by cellphone. Gubele described the three climbers as experienced rock climbers, but not necessarily experienced mountain climbers.
What helped rescuers was the fact that the three climbershad an electronic mountain locator device, which helped searchers pinpoint their exact location.
One rescuer also credited the dog as a key factor in the climbers' survival, keeping them warm and calm all night long.
"The dog probably saved their lives," said Erik Brom, a member of the Portland Mountain Rescue Team.
35deaths in past 25 years
The climbing mishap occurred at about the 2,530-metre level on the mountain, which is about 95 kilometres east of Portland.
Mount Hood can be treacherous, particularly in the winter.
In December, search teams scoured the mountain for days looking for a group of missing climbers. The bodies of Brian Hall of Dallas and Jerry (Nikko) Cooke of New York have not been found. Another climber in their group, Kelly James of Dallas, died of hypothermia.
In the past 25 years, more than 35 climbers have died on the 3.4-kilometre-high mountain, one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world.