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Climbers lost on Mount Hood found alive

Deputy: 'They did everything right'

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood

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MOUNT HOOD, Oregon (CNN) -- Rescuers have reached a group of five climbers on Mount Hood who were lost in white-out conditions, authorities told CNN.

All five, who were lost less than 24 hours, are in fine condition, said Sgt. Nick Watt of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Department. All are well enough to walk with the rescuers to two snowmobiles that will take them down the mountain.

Rescuers followed a signal from the group's mountain locator device, Watt said. The climbers had dug a snow cave and stayed there so the rescuers could find them, he said.

"They did everything right," Watt said.

Two other people authorities were concerned about made it down the mountain shortly after 2 p.m. (5 p.m. EST), Watt said.

The group of five began the climb early Saturday at the Timberline Lodge, said Jeff Jaqua, search-and-rescue coordinator for the Zigzag Ranger District, which encompasses the southern side of Mount Hood. Most climbers make it up and back in 10 to 12 hours, he said.

Before beginning, climbers note the time they expect to be back.

The group traveled a path on the southern side of the mountain and made it to the top Saturday but got lost coming down, said Kathleen Walker, also with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Department. By late Saturday afternoon, the climbers reached an area with many steep cliffs, where they dug the cave, she said.

When the climbers did not return by the scheduled time, authorities checked to see whether their locator beacon was working. "We turned on our receivers and picked up a signal right away," Jaqua said.

Poor weather complicated the rescuers' job, Jaqua said. "There are heavy winds, very low visibility, high avalanche danger -- so our rescuers are taking it very carefully."

"It's snowing hard," Walker said, but "not that cold," so conditions tend to be wet.

About 10,000 people try to climb Mount Hood each year, but "only a few hundred to a thousand or so attempt it during the winter months," when the climb can be most difficult, Walker said. "There are not even 100 out today."

On average, one to three climbers die on the mountain each year, Walker said.

Three climbers died after falling into a crevasse in May.

Mount Hood is the highest peak in Oregon. An active volcano, it rises more than 11,000 feet above sea level, and its base covers 92 miles. Timberline Lodge is 6,000 feet up the mountain.



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