Search for Oregon climber suspended on weather concerns

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PORTLAND — Bad weather forced volunteer crews to suspend Monday’s search for an Oregon climber missing on Mount Hood.

Kinley Adams, a 59-year-old Salem dentist, was reported missing by family Saturday night, roughly six hours after his expected return from a climb on the west side of the mountain. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office found his vehicle at Timberline Lodge.

After an empty search Sunday, volunteers returned to the mountain Monday amid poor visibility that limited the scope of the effort.

Steve Rollins, spokesman for Portland Mountain Rescue, said conditions kept searchers tethered to the lower elevation of the mountain, near timberline. Though frustrating not to go higher, he said it’s a search area that could bear fruit.

“If a climber gets lost, they often wander down into the woods,” he said.

But rain, snow, wind and low visibility stopped the crews by early afternoon. The search will resume Tuesday, if the weather cooperates. The skies, however, are not expected to clear until Thursday.

Described as an experienced climber, Adams indicated he would take the Leuthold Couloir route to the summit.

It’s easy to miss Leuthold and get into steeper gullies, Rollins said. Moreover, the ice that holds Mount Hood’s notoriously crumbly rock is melting.

“It’s maybe getting a little bit late in the season,” Rollins said.

Adams has a dentist office in south Salem. The Statesman Journal newspaper reported that he is also the former president of the board of directors for the Salem Pops Orchestra.

“Everyone’s focus is on bringing him home as soon as possible,” Kelli Watcherson, the office manager at Adams’ dental practice, said in a brief phone interview Monday.

A May 2009 profile of Adams in an Oregon Dental Association publication said he took up mountain climbing in the 1970s and has climbed peaks from Mount McKinley in Alaska’s Denali National Park to El Capitan at Yosemite National Park in California. Though Adams was alone Saturday, the profile said his wife and children are regular climbing partners.

“It’s just a good stress release,” Adams was quoted as saying. “It is completely different, so when I’m dealing with dentistry I can concentrate on that and when I’m away from it, I’m completely away from it.”

Besides Portland Mountain Rescue, volunteers from Mountain Wave Communications, American Medical Response Reach and Treat Team and Hood River Crag Rats took part in the search coordinated by the sheriff’s office. An Oregon Army National Guard helicopter is ready where there’s a break in the weather.

Mount Hood, the tallest mountain in Oregon, is a popular climbing site that has seen dozens of accidents and fatalities over the years. Thousands climb the 11,239-foot peak each year, mostly in the spring.