The country watched in December 2006 to learn the fate of three climbers trapped on Mount Hood. The worst storm in the last 10 years hit the mountain and prevented rescuers from doing their work.
One of the climbers, Kelly James, made a phone call to his wife, Karen James, to let her know he was trapped on the mountain. By the time rescuers found him, hypothermia had killed him. Now in a new book Karen James tells the untold story of what really happened atop the mountain.
Read an excerpt of "Holding Fast" below.
Kelly reached for his cell phone. Please let me talk to Karen. Kelly dialed and tried to reach his wife, but there was no signal. All right, I'll try 911. Kelly dialed, but again there was no signal. By that time he was so wet, weak, and tired, he did not have the energy to venture out of the snow cave and try to get a better signal. A vicious storm was raging, and even if he was strong enough, he had little hope of going anywhere to pick up a stronger signal. Just need to sit tight. Brian knows where I am, thought Kelly.
Glancing toward the cave's entrance, he could see that it was almost covered over from the recent snowfall. The climbers built this cave to seek shelter from the brutal weather. They started the trip together, but now Kelly was separated from his two buddies. Alone in the cave, he tried not to focus on the pain in his shoulder and legs. Kelly thought, I need to dig out the snow covering the entrance. But Brian and Nikko had the snow shovel with them. Could I even use it? he questioned himself. Kelly could no longer feel his feet. This was a first for Kelly, who was used to being in top shape. He had natural physical strength and endurance that amazed his friends and family.
Something had gone terribly wrong just below the summit. In the middle of December, Mount Hood can be just as cruel as Everest, and despite their careful planning, the trio could not escape Mother Nature's fury. On the north face of Mount Hood, there is nowhere to go but up, due to the extreme danger of down climbing the ice. The plan was simple enough. Go up, over the top, and descend the south side. But it didn't happen that way. As Kelly reflected on their dire situation, his mind constantly raced back to his family. He knew they had to be trying to call him, especially his wife, Karen. No matter where he was in the world, he and Karen had a pact that every night each of them would reach out and call to say good night. Throughout their marriage, the only time they missed saying, "I love you," before bedtime was when Kelly could not get cell phone reception on a mountain. The longest he had ever been without talking to Karen was five days on Mount McKinley, when he and Brian were caught in their tent in a whiteout.