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New Weather Looms over Mt. Hood Search

Updated 7:41 p.m. ET

A military helicopter searched upper elevations of Mount Hood on Monday, as rescuers held onto hope that two experienced climbers would be found alive after a third member of their party was discovered dead over the weekend.

Search teams were working against time, with a new storm expected to hit Oregon's highest peak overnight.

Taking advantage of a brief break in the weather, a Black Hawk helicopter operated by the Oregon Army National Guard searched for signs of life or debris. Ground teams have also started up the mountain but remained at lower elevations because of avalanche dangers.

Mountaineers found the body of Luke T. Gullberg, 26, of Des Moines, Wash., on Saturday at the 9,000-foot level on Reid Glacier.

Officials were examining photos from Gullberg's camera for possible clues about the location of his companions.

Authorities have not released details on the photos. But Teri Preiss, an aunt of missing climber Anthony Vietti, said the photos suggested the trio had changed their route up the mountain to avoid one that looked too dangerous.

Rescuers say the pictures from put the three climbers at Reid headwall, a steep rocky face just below the 11,000-foot summit. Usually, climbers descend from there a short way, then climb to the very top, reports CBS News correspondent Priya David.

Bad weather has frustrated ground teams and aircraft searching high elevations for Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., and Katie Nolan, 29, of Portland, who have been missing since Friday.

Ground teams were also on the mountain Monday, but avalanche dangers kept them away from the treacherous summit of the mountain, where it's hoped the hikers carved out a protective snow cave, David reports.

"They can't take to the hill because the avalanche danger is extreme, more so than yesterday," said Detective Jim Strovink of the Clackamas County sheriff's office.

Mt. Hood is the most climbed glacial peak in the United States and has claimed 18 lives in the last decade alone, with an entire party of nine dying in 1986, and three more in 2006.

Preiss believes her nephew and Nolan were strong enough to survive somewhere on the 11,249-foot mountain.

"Today is our day," Preiss said.

Steve Rollins, a search leader, said the climbers were known to have ice axes that could be used to hack out a snow cave.

"It's more like digging with a spoon than a shovel, but if you're life is in danger you can do wonderful things," said Rollins, with Portland Mountain Rescue.

Officials previously said the climbers did not have shovels.

Relatives of all three climbers gathered at Timberline Lodge, a ski resort on the flank of Mount Hood and a staging area for the search.

"We want to get above 10,000 feet," said Nate Thompson, search coordinator with the Clackamas County sheriff's office.

Scott Weishaar, National Weather Service Incident Meteorologist, told David that the first of several strong weather fronts was expected to hit about 4 p.m., dumping as much as a foot of heavy, wet snow with snow storms expected to continue through Thursday.

"Today we're praying and asking God to calm the winds," Anthony Vietti's aunt, Terry Price, said during a Monday morning press conference.

Authorities say Katie Nolan, Anthony Vietti and Luke Gullberg left the Timberline Lodge at 1 a.m. Friday morning and were expected back in the afternoon, but never returned.

The body of 26-year-old Luke T. Gullberg of Des Moines, Wash., was found Saturday morning.

"He was just like my son. He did everything for me," said his grandmother, Marjorie Gullberg.

Rescue teams believe the other two climbers may be close to where Gullberg's body was discovered. Officials have not given up hope that 24-year-old Vietti of Longview, Wash., and 29-year-old Nolan of Portland could still be found alive, calling them experienced climbers.

However, David reports that none of them was carrying inexpensive mountain locators that send out signals to searchers.

Mountaineers who found Gullberg's body couldn't attempt climbing high on the slopes Sunday because the risk of avalanche increased after an eight-inch overnight snowfall.

The three mountaineers had begun their ascent on the west side of the mountain about 1 a.m. Friday and were due back late that afternoon, but failed to return.

On Saturday, crews found Gullberg's body on the glacier at the 9,000-feet level.

His equipment also was found scattered around the glacier, including a camera with at least 20 photos of the climbers. Crews have looked over the photos for landmarks and other clues to the location of the two missing climbers.

"It looked like they were confident and having a good time," Strovink said of the photographs.

Relatives of the three climbers were gathered at Timberline Lodge, a ski lodge on Mount Hood and a staging area for the rescuers, to await more news.

On "The Early Show" this morning, Dennis Simons, a volunteer chaplain for the Sandy Fire and Police Departments, said the families of the missing climbers are doing "remarkably well."

Simons characterized as "draining" his efforts to keep up the spirits and hopes of the missing climbers' families, "but I'm really glad to be here to be a resource for them.

"They're drawing on strength from each other. They're Christian families, all of them, and drawing on their faith at this time," he said.

The three climbers, all Christians, met through church activities, Simons said, and Nolan has traveled extensively for Christian causes.

Simons said the experience of Nolan and Vietti also was giving their relatives hope. He said Nolan had made the summit of other Cascade Range peaks, and the three had climbed together before. "They know how to survive in the snow," Simons said.

The Oregonian newspaper reported Sunday that Gullberg was a sales clerk at the outdoor retailer and cooperative REI in Tukwila, Wash., and he studied writing and English at Central Washington University.

Mount Hood is a popular site among climbers in the United States. In 25 years, it has been the site of dozens of climbing accidents and fatalities. The worst on record happened in May 1986 when nine people - seven students from Oregon Episcopal School and two adults - died after they dug a snow cave during a sudden storm.

The latest search, which comes almost exactly three years after another trio of experienced climbers died on Mount Hood during a December 2006 blizzard, has generated heated debate among some about the wisdom of tackling the mountain during the winter, a season when brutal storms can move in quickly.

Snowbound on Mt. Hood: 2006 Rescue Slideshow

In an online discussion for climbers at www.summitpost.org, some said it is irresponsible even for experienced climbers to take on Mount Hood during the winter while others said the challenge of winter mountaineering is what brings them to Mount Hood.

Veteran climber Jim Whittaker, the first American to conquer Mount Everest, said he understands why climbers like the challenge of tackling Mount Hood in the winter.

"It's exciting and fun when your testing yourself against the power of nature," Whittaker said in an interview from his home in Port Townsend, Wash. "But you've got to know what you're doing; you've got to be prepared."

Republican John Lim, a former legislator who's running for governor, said Sunday he plans to keep pushing for a state law to require mountaineers to carry electronic locator devices when they head for the summit of Mount Hood.

"With electronic beacons, you can locate a person right away and save their life instead of ending up with a dead body," Lim said.

Many rescuers and mountaineers oppose such a requirement, saying it would create a false sense of security and prompt some climbers to take risks they otherwise would avoid.

"They add weight. It increases your exposure to rock fall and ice fall," Rollins said, "and that increases risk."

In the latest case, the three climbers did not have a radio locator beacon but they did have a cell phone that was briefly activated as they were preparing to begin their ascent.

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