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Dead climber recovered from Mount Hood

Story Highlights

• NEW: Kelly James' body removed from Mount Hood Monday night
• Search will continue for at least two more days, sheriff said
• Weather expected to worsen on Wednesday, official said
Three climbers went missing 10 days ago
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HOOD RIVER, Oregon (CNN) -- The search for two missing climbers on Oregon's highest peak continues as the body of a third climber was finally recovered Monday afternoon, said the Hood River County sheriff.

Sheriff Joe Wampler spoke to reporters at 4 p.m. (7 p.m. ET) Monday, a day after crews found the body of Kelly James in a snow cave near the summit of the 11,239-foot Mount Hood.

James had suffered an "obvious arm" injury, said Wampler.

James had called his family from the snow cave on December 10, explaining that the two climbing companions with which he had begun the trek two days previously, had left him to get help.

Wampler said he feared those climbers, Brian Hall, 37, of Dallas, Texas, and Jerry Cooke, 36, of Brooklyn, New York may have had an accident while attempting to descend the mountain.

Searchers may soon go to an "avalanche-type search" in which rescuers use long poles to probe the deep snow on the mountainside.

"We want to find them in this snow cave that they've built someplace else on the mountain" he said.

"If we don't find them there, I think we're going to have to start poking in the snow. ... There's as much as 10 feet of new snow that these guys could be under."

Wampler said that forecasts indicated the weather would turn against the searchers by about Wednesday.

James, a 48-year-old landscape architect from Dallas, Texas, was an experienced climber, his family said. He had conquered some of the world's toughest peaks, and loved climbing dearly. (Read a profile of Kelly James)

Authorities at first did not confirm that the body was James.

But earlier Monday the climber's brother Frank James said a recovered ring with his brother's initials led him to conclude the news was tragic. (Watch brother describe items belonging to Kelly James Video)

"I feel that I have two other brothers still on the mountain," James' brother Frank said Monday. "We wish the rescue workers Godspeed in their ongoing efforts to bring Brian and Jerry down that mountain safely."

Wampler, who is in charge of coordinating search and rescue efforts, said weather for the past three days has been ideal for searching.

Searchers have found some equipment at a second snow cave where authorities believe all three spent a cold night on December 8.

It's possible the climbers are suffering from hypothermia which can trigger delusions, perhaps causing them to discard items essential for traversing the mountain. ( What is hypothermia?)

"These guys left a trail better than most, so we kind of knew where to start looking," he said. "Looking for three people on a very huge mountain is a needle in a haystack."

Earlier Monday, Oregon National Guard Capt. Mike Braibish said the search was "still a rescue operation."

Wampler said the search area had been narrowed to an area between the snow cave where the body was found and an area directly below.

He described the targeted area as being the gullies between Mount Hood's Elliot Glacier and the Cooper Spur.

"It's too dangerous to put ground crews in there," Wampler said of the area early Monday, adding that air searches, consisting of a Chinook helicopter and two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, would continue.

Wampler said there had been heavy snowfall and a number of avalanches in the area which would need to stabilize before a ground search could be conducted.

The narrowed search area allowed authorities to reduce the number of rescuers needed, including dispensing with a C-130 cargo plane used earlier in the effort.

In addition to Frank James, who identified his brother, Jerry Cooke's wife, Michaela Cooke, and Brian Hall's sister, Angela, expressed sympathy for the James family and thanked rescuers for their efforts and everyone for their prayers.

There will be at least two more days dedicated to finding the remaining two climbers, Wampler said. However, bad weather could hamper the massive operation. (Watch how rescuers aren't giving up hope Video)

Friends and family members described the climbers as well prepared for their hobby and the ordeal they faced on Mount Hood.

Hall is a former professional soccer player with the physique of "Adonis" and "mentally, he was tough," Joe Morrone, who coached Hall when he played in college at the University of Connecticut, told The Hartford Courant. "That's the thing that kind of separated him."

Cooke sought information on climbing Web sites. Posting under the name Fuggedaboudit, according to The New York Times, Cooke was on the forum of the Web site in mid-November asking for advice for the climb and saying it would be his first time on the Oregon mountain.

On another site,, Cooke describes various climbs in the past four years, including one of Washington's Mount Rainier, and also wrote "have ice climbed in Adirondacks, New Hampshire and Vermont."

Karen James told the Dallas newspaper that her husband had been climbing for 25 years, including an ascent of 20,000-foot Mount McKinley in Alaska.

Kelly James would bring over prospective climbing partners to meet her, Karen James told the Morning News.

"You have to have your wife on board," she told the paper.

CNN's Dan Simon and Chris Lawrence contributed to this report.



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