MOUNT HOOD, Ore. - At a 2 p.m. press conference held on Mount Hood, the sheriff overseeing the search for two missing mountain climbers wrapped up five days of searching with these words:
"As sheriff of Clackamas County, I can say one of the most difficult decisions I have to make as sheriff is to suspend a search operation and transform into recovery," said Craig Roberts. "Unfortunately, that's where we're at today."
Anthony Vietti, a 24 year old from Longview, and 29-year-old Katie Nolan of Portland have been missing since Friday. Despite whiteout conditions and a foot and a half of snow, rescue teams continued searching by snow shoe through Tuesday.
Sheriff Roberts said the decision was made after factoring in the likelihood of survival after more than five days on the mountain, extreme avalanche conditions that made helicopter search efforts difficult, and a ground search impeded by 60-mile-per-hour winds and steady snow.
"The search right now is suspended," said Roberts. However, he said, "it is never abandoned."
"These individuals on the mountain are just like your brother and sister, and truly everyone cares about these people on the mountain," Roberts said, breaking up. "Unfortunately we had the odds against us."
The Black Hawk helicopter brought in by the Oregon National Guard reportedly left the Tillamook Airport at around 11 p.m. today, headed back toward its home hangar in Salem.
Parents of both of the missing hikers got up to speak at the press conference Wednesday. The father of missing climber Katie Nolan said he understood her search was "like finding a needle in a hay stack."
"Katie loved the mountain so much," David Nolan said, "that we're pretty sure she would want to be buried where she is."
A third climber, 26-year-old Luke T. Gullberg of Des Moines, Wash., reportedly struck out to find help and was found Saturday. He was discovered dead from hypothermia - tucked in the snow about 9,000 feet up the mountain. Family members report Gullberg's ashes will be spread on the mountain.
Background on other deaths on Mount Hood's face