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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Larry King Live Special Edition: Mt. Hood, Rescue & Recovery
Aired December 17, 2006 - 21:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. MIKE BRAiBISH, OREGON NATIONAL GUARD: There was a secondary snow cave that was discovered. Our climbers did get into the snow cave and have confirmed that there is one fatality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR, LARRY KING LIVE (voice over): Tonight, breaking news, and it's tragic news from high atop Oregon's Mt. Hood. One of those missing climbers found dead, still not identified. This, after hopes were raised when equipment was found in a snow cave.
The search goes on for the other two. We're live on the scene with the latest from those leading the search, friends of the climbers, and more, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Good evening. This is a special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Normally we are on tape this evening, but because of the importance of the day's events, we are with you live. We will also air commercial free. We will also be including your phone calls. The number will be flashing on the screen.
One reminder -- big show tomorrow night. Angelina Jolie, Robert DeNiro, and Matt Damon, all three for the full hour.
We'll have many guests with us tonight, but let's get everything up to date, with Dan Simon, our correspondent at Hood River.
Dan, what happened today?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LARRY KING LIVE: Larry, it's really tough to express the range of emotions felt here today. This day started on such a positive note. You had all these family members here on the tarmac cheering the helicopters as they took off, cheering the rescuers.
Then came word this morning that the rescuers had discovered this illusive snow cave that they had been trying to find over the last several days. They saw some equipment next to the snow cave. They finally got folks on the ground to actually go in and inspect it. They couldn't do that for the past several days because the weather was so bad. Finally, today you had some great weather.
Well, they went into the first snow cave, Larry, and it was empty. Then all of a sudden there was this just major letdown. Then, low and behold, a few minutes after that, we got word that the rescuers spotted a second snow cave, and that's where they went inside and found the body of one of those missing climbers.
As you pointed out, that climber still has not been identified.
KING: Dan, do we know why, two snow caves?
SIMON: That's a very good question, Larry. At this point, we don't know. We do know that one of the climbers, Kelly James, was in a snow cave by himself and that the other two climbers apparently went to get some help.
In terms of where those two climbers are right now, Larry, this is still being described as a search and rescue mission. Obviously, the fact that you have one fatality doesn't bode well for those other two climbers. But at this point, crews, at least publicly, are still expressing optimism, and they're still calling it a search and rescue mission, Larry.
KING: Now, Dan, the body of that one climber has not been brought down. Do you know why?
SIMON: Well, we are -- it's not that easy to do, frankly. This is difficult terrain. It was hard enough just to get the crews up there today. And what we are told is that tonight there was going to be a strategy session in terms of how to best do that.
Also, in terms of not identifying the body and not telling the family members who this climber is, we are told that there has to be positive, legal confirmation before we're going to go ahead and do that. But we do know that, apparently, they do know who this missing climber is, but they need to make sure they do it the correct way, and do it the correct legal way, too, Larry.
KING: Dan will be with us throughout the hour.
Let's go to Keith Airington in San Antonio, Texas. Keith is a long-time friend of the missing climbers Kelly James and Brian Hall. He has known Kelly James since college, and he taught him to climb. He climbed Washington's Mt. Rainier with Kelly and Brian in 1998.
Keith, what do you make of the two snow caves?
KEITH AIRINGTON, FRIEND OF CLIMBERS: You know, it's hard to say. Because we know Kelly was in one. We think that Brian and Nikko went off to get help and at some point may have been deterred by the conditions, and tried to get back up to Kelly. They could have easily dug a snow cave there themselves.
Kelly could have, realizing the storm came in -- and normally after a severe storm like that you usually have a break in the weather -- he could have heard the choppers outside. He saw that it was clear. He could have very easily made an effort to get up to the summit, to be visible. He could have done it in the storm, knowing that he might not have had much time left. He could have easily done it himself.
We kind of understand that we think he was injured. And, listening to Jim Whittaker earlier today, a very experienced mountaineer, one of the foremost in the sport, mention that it would take considerable strength from a person being on a mountain like that, possibly injured, for nine days to dig out a snow cave.
KING: Nick Pryzybyciel -- Pryzybyciel is with us in Hood River. He he's the staff sergeant, public affairs specialist. And he spotted the climber's equipment, near the summit, in a photo that the equipment was collected early today. Did that definitely tell you, Nick, that that was where they were?
SGT. NICK PRYZYBYCIEL, USAF, RES., PUBLIC AFFAIRS SPECIALSIT: Could you repeat that, Larry?
KING: Yes. Did spotting that equipment, and the like, did that definitely ascertain to you that that's where they were?
PRYZYBYCIEL: That was just one of many clues we had to go on today. That was a result of a reconnaissance mission from last night that took place. We found that this morning when we were going to recon that area. It's just one of many targets we had.
KING: Captain Mark Ross is a combat rescue officer 304th Rescue Squadron, U.S. Air Force Reserves. He participated in today's rescue operations on Mt. Hood.
Captain, first, do you know the reason, if they do know, why they're not announcing who the dead mountaineer is?
CAPT. MARK ROSS, 304th RESCUE SQUADRON, U.S.A.F. RES.: Yeah, Larry, I do. We want to make a positive identification before we put that out. We weren't able to do that ourselves on the mountain. We need to have the family involved in that. So once they have confirmed who we found, then that information will go public.
KING: Captain, can you tell us why, or what you think might have happened to the other two? In other words, do you have hope for them?
ROSS: Well, we're still here. Of course, we have hope for them. It's been a long time, and we're going to keep looking.
We haven't found positive signs so it's hard to say what their condition is now. We're starting to find evidence. That's a good thing. We found a snow cave we didn't expect to find today, and tracks today. So that reinvigorates our search effort in a smaller area, which is a good thing. Our search area has been very diluted because we didn't know where in the Mt. Hood wilderness they may have ended up.
KING: I know you have to leave us, Captain. Would you say it would be a miracle if we find them alive?
ROSS: No, I'm not going to say it's a miracle. We've found people after extended here periods of time. We have a gentleman right here who's survived something like this before. So it can happen.
KING: That gentleman is Randy Knapp. Captain Ross, thank you for joining us, we appreciate you reporting for us. ROSS: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Randy Knapp, he and two other teenagers survived 17 days lost on Mt. Hood during a trek that started on New Year's Eve in 1975.
Randy, would you gather why we find one, in a snow cave, and no indication of the other two? What would you guess about that?
RANDY KNAPP, SURVIVED 17 DAYS ON MT. HOOD: I guess my understanding is that the gentleman that was up there near the summit was injured, and his friends dug him a secure place, as safe as place as they could, before they started going down for help. That's the way I understand it. I know -- you probably know more than I do. I've kind of been in a news blackout today.
KING: Randy, we know one is dead, two have not been found. You survived 17 days. If they do survive, these other two, what will be the key?
KNAPP: So long as they stick together, so long as they maintain a positive attitude. That's critical. When -- you know, when we were on the mountain, we were just energetic teenagers. And we really didn't understand the situation we were in. How dangerous it was. I don't know. Maybe that helped us. But I'm just hopeful that these two guys, remaining guys, will stick together, they'll maintain their cool, and we'll find them tomorrow.
KING: In Dallas, Texas, this is Gary Brandenberg, he is Kelly James' pastor, senior pastor of the Fellowship Bible Church. This is not the toughest time in a pastor's life, Gary?
GARY BRANDENBERG, PASTOR, FELLOWSHIP BIBLE CHURCH: These are difficult times, Larry. That's true. But as I shared with someone today, we have a number of people in our congregation at any point in time that are facing life and death issues. So this one is just a little unusual.
KING: Have you talked to Kelly's family?
BRANDENBERG: I have. I talked with Karen last night. And we're staying in touch with her, and with the family.
KING: And do you pray with them? What keeps your hopes going in a situation like this?
BRANDENBERG: Well, we do. We pray constantly. We've been praying all week long. But there are a couple of things that are just a great encouragement to us. Number one, is just the strength and the faith that is coming from these families. That's an inspiration to us.
But also, I know Kelly. I know how Kelly lived his life. And I know that he lived his life in such a way that he was prepared for anything that would come. And he was a man -- is a man of great faith, and so we just continue to pray that they get these other guys, and bring them home. KING: Rick Sanchez, our CNN correspondent, has kind of lived the life of a mountain climber recently, putting himself in similar situations. Do you know why, Rick, they do what they do?
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LARRY KING LIVE: Every single one I talked to says they do it because they enjoy the thrill of it. To them, it's no different than somebody who enjoys going out and playing golf on a weekend, or somebody who enjoys playing soft ball or tennis or anything else. It's their hobby, their sport, their thing that they feel absolutely challenges them.
Every single one that I talk to, Larry, also said that it's the one place that they find themselves and have conversations with themselves. It's almost as if they're out there with their God, you know? It's just them on a mountain.
KING: You know, Rick, I've surprisingly run into many people today who said they feel very sorry for their families, but that's what they wanted to do. They wanted to risk themselves. That's where they went.
SANCHEZ: They loved it. They absolutely adored being up there. Every one of these guys that you talk to -- and they seem to be very fanatical about it, because they have to be. This is an extreme sport that we're talking about here. Every single one of them that you talk to will say that there's nothing that they enjoy more than their sport, being out there.
And it's almost like a need that they have to do stuff like that. Trust me, I've been in those conditions. When I say extreme, Larry, it is absolutely extreme. I mean, we're looking at those pictures you've been showing tonight of the mountain, and it looks very peaceful. But when they were up there four, five days ago and viewers need to understand this, it was winds blowing between 60 and 100 miles an hour.
That is phenomenally strong. That creates a whiteout condition where you can barely see the hand in front of your face. And on top of that, it's a biting cold. Those are very, very difficult conditions that they were in. They had to follow those universal rules to survive. And the question now is, how well were they able to follow them?
KING: By the way, I know we checked them out before we went on, is Dr. Sanjay Gupta available now?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENTL Yes, Sir. I'm here, Larry.
KING: I knew you were there, Doctor. All right. When this sad case of this one person who is dead, your guess would be -- and naturally you haven't done an autopsy -- he died of what?
GUPTA: Most likely hypothermia, more generally speaking, exposure. The body just gets too cold to be able to sustain functions anymore. And slowly things just start to shut down. Obviously, people get cold, they start to shiver. They slowly become more exhausted and slowly your organ systems fail.
You can see some of the things that happen in that process, including confusion, which is very significant. Rick Sanchez talks about this because it affects your judgment at that point. Memory loss as well, and then finally drowsiness. People sort of drift off to sleep. Then they don't wake up, Larry.
KING: Are there some type of people who can handle it better than others? If so, what do they have?
GUPTA: That's a good question. People write a lot about this. They talk about people's metabolism being different, for example, and being able to sustain colder temperatures for longer periods of time. That's just the person.
Obviously, also just a little bit of moisture on somebody's body can drastically change the temperature at which somebody becomes hypothermic. So, if they're wet, for some reason or another, even would be just cool temperatures instead of very cold temperatures, can make someone hypothermic.
Also, this will that I think Rick talked about, some other people have talked about, to not get to that drowsiness stage, there was a great book I read years ago, called "Touching the Void", specifically about that time period, where you're willing yourself to stay awake. It is difficult but some people have that. They can sort of stay awake even in the coldest circumstances.
KING: Stay right with us, Sanjay. Let's check back with Nick Pryzybyciel.
Nick, talk about your discovery of the first snow cave. When did you first spot it in the photos in the area?
PRYZYBYCIEL: Well, Larry, actually, our guys spotted it yesterday. I spotted what was a secondary -- a three-line system of climbing gear. I didn't actually spot that. I just happened to have a camera with me, and photographed that.
KING: What were your impressions of it when seeing it?
PRYZYBYCIEL: Upon seeing it? We were excited that there was something else up there. It was a lead we hadn't yet discovered. We kind of stumbled upon it. And we were all very, very excited.
KING: What do you make, Nick, of that big Y in the snow?
PRYZYBYCIEL: What do I make of it? It's a Y of hope. It gives us something to go on. It's something to keep us going.
KING: I mean, you think -- obviously -- Randy, would you guess -- what does it mean to you, Randy? They left a big Y in the snow?
KNAPP: I think they knew they were in trouble and the only way to get help was to make themselves present. And they put whatever they could out that would attract the attention of people who could send some help.
KING: You know, any significance, randy, to the letter Y?
KNAPP: I don't know of the significance. I just climb mountains. I'm not familiar with the rescue terms.
KING: Keith Airington, do you have a theory of it?
AIRINGTON: I'm kind of like Randy, I guess. I haven't heard a lot about it. Apparently it's used to mark where you're at, or the area you're in. I would have also thought of it as basically being an arrow shape pointing to maybe a direction you have gone, to give some clue as to -- from that area where you might have tried to go.
KING: Dan Simon, what, if anything, are they doing tonight?
SIMON: Well, they're going to figure out how best to recover the body tomorrow. And there was a briefing going on just a little while ago. I saw all the rescuers huddled in a certain room, Larry. And, you know, the looks on their faces just really said it all in terms of their feelings, in terms of the outcome today. Just really awful.
Tomorrow they're going to recover the body and continue the search for the two missing men. As I said earlier, this is still a search and rescue mission. They are not calling it a recovery mission as far as the two other climbers are concerned, Larry.
KING: Randy Knapp, did you ever come close to hypothermia as described by Dr. Gupta?
KNAPP: We came very close. From the fourth day out, when we started hiking down, we were climbing through very wet snow. And our gear became wet, and our clothes became wet. And so from that day on, for the next 13 days, we were wet constantly. We were shivering constantly. We knew we were close to hypothermia so we did everything we could. We insulated ourselves as much as we could from the snow. We were careful to keep our feet up off the snow. But we knew that we were close all the time.
KING: Let's take a call. We will be including calls throughout this hour. We are doing this special LARRY KING LIVE tonight without commercial interruption. So just flowing right through.
Arlington, Texas, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: Being that these guys were such experienced and well- prepared climbers, would they not have had some indication, before setting off that there was an impending storm? Or did this just take them by surprise?
KING: Nick, what would you guess?
KNAPP: I couldn't speculate on that. All we know is that our guys are out there right now trying to get them down.
KING: Keith, would you have guessed they would know weather conditions?
AIRINGTON: Yeah, I believe they would have been well versed with the weather and the upcoming weather. When I was speaking with Karen, at the beginning of all of this, we were going through -- she was going through some of his correspondence and e-mails to the other climbers.
And they were talking of contingency routes, or what ifs, if this is a no-go, what do we do, if this happens. They always had backups. The times that Kelly and I have climbed together, even the last climb with Brian, we had all of the info on weather, even acquired it there at the ranger station for last minute before we set out.
KING: So why did they go?
AIRINGTON: Apparently they thought that they could get up there and summit and get back in a reasonable amount of time before the storm set in.
KING: Is that a kind of classic confidence, Nick, that climbers experience?
PRYZYBYCIEL: I would think that's probably the draw towards climbing. I don't climb myself so I couldn't answer that.
KING: Randy Knapp can, though. Is it the kind of thing, you see bad weather and you say, what the hell?
KNAPP: No. We try as hard as we can to avoid the extreme conditions because we know the risk. But there's the adrenaline rush of being on the edge, just experiencing the edge of fear. You won't understand it unless you climb. And I know that climbers get -- they get condemned a bit because of that. These guys that were climbing the mountain, they were at their best, and I'm still hoping that two will make it out.
KING: Keith, you climbed with two of them. Are they very good climbers?
AIRINGTON: Yes. Very talented, excellent climbers. Kelly and I have been climbing for 25 years. We've done some good climbs in the Swiss Alps, and down in the Andes, as well as Rainier. Brian, I got to climb with him on Rainier. Strong, very methodical. Both climbers always -- you know, it is a risky sport, but you take calculated risk. And I think they were both well, well versed and level headed when it comes to these type of risks.
KING: Don't most mountain climbers, Keith, climb when it's sunny? Don't they climb mountains when it's not snowstorms, it's not the dead of winter?
AIRINGTON: Well, perception would be that would be the best, but when you're climbing snow and ice, sunshine can increase melt. It can loosen ice walls. It can trigger avalanches when sometimes -- that's why climbers will start out early on climbs, 2:00 in the morning, while it's still dark. It's cold. Everything stays frozen. So a lot of times cold, cloudy weather can be your best friend sometimes.
KING: Rick Sanchez, a little while ago you trekked up a snowy mountainside to try to get the feel of what these climbers were going through. How long did that go on for you?
SANCHEZ: Well, that went on for me for about four hours. But, Larry, I was going to answer the question you had posed. One thing we're not taking into account here, remember these guys planned these vacation. It's no different than one of us planning a vacation and going to any other place.
They have a small window, then, the three of them get together. They're not from Oregon. One of them flew in from New York, the other flew in from another part of the country. So they get there and the weather has changed somewhat, but they still feel like they have a window.
KING: But, Rick --
SANCHEZ: Enough of a window, they feel that they can get back up and down.
KING: Rick, if you're planning a vacation in Miami and Hurricane Alphonse is coming, you kind of change.
SANCHEZ: Yeah. But, you know, what was explained to me, Larry, by all the mountaineers and Alpiners that I had talked to was they give themselves 24 hours within the time that they think they can get back. You know, you and I know weather can change in those 24 hours, but for the most part, it's going to be pretty close.
Something apparently happened that made them stay up there perhaps longer than they had planned to, and this is the question that hasn't been answered yet -- was there an injury to James? Because why would they split up? The last thing you would ever do as mountaineers, if you're ever in that situation, or you're suddenly confronted by bad weather is split up.
And somehow or for some reason, they did that. That's still at this point somewhat unexplained. So, you know, it's an interesting question.
Now, going back to what you asked about the weather conditions, I couldn't even begin, Larry, to understand or to get a feel for what it would be like to be up there for more than a week. I was up there for three or four hours. And, you know, the luxury of being able to get out when I needed to. I withstood as much as I could, you know, 60- mile-an-hour winds. Those guys didn't have an out, and that's what's so difficult for them. And how long could they last? Who would have known that that weather system would stay as long as it did?
KING: With my feeling for the cold, I couldn't have done 10 minutes. I'm amazed you did that. Let's bring in Rob Marciano, our CNN meteorologist, on duty in Atlanta. What did you know before this about what was coming, Rob?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, they didn't see the storm that came through last Thursday. That wasn't in the forecast when they had left camp the Thursday before. What was in the forecast for the coming week, beginning Sunday, Monday, was a couple of -- was three storms, the last one being the worst. So these guys had planned to be down the mountain before the bad weather hit.
So something must have happened prior to the weather going south. Beginning on Friday, the weather wasn't all that bad. They had winds, 30, 40 miles an hour, but this time of year on Mt. Hood, that's pretty average. And then things began to go downhill on Sunday and Monday. Then the worst of it came when they should have been down the hill a long time before.
KING: We are including phone calls from our viewers. We go to La Pima, Oregon, hello.
CALLER: Hello. I hear that these guys are very experienced, excellent climbers. But it doesn't sound as though they were carrying GPS tracking devices.
KING: Aha, what about that, Keith?
AIRINGTON: I was speaking with Karen when she informed me of Kelly phoning in. She said that his phone -- he was the only one that had a GPS in his telephone. That's all I know.
KING: What would you guess might have happened -- Nick, do you have any thoughts as to what might have happened? Why wouldn't they all carry GPS?
PRYZYBYCIEL: I don't know why they would not carry GPS. We know some the gear that they were carrying and the gear that they did have with them, that we assumed they had with them from their packing list. Experienced climbers carrying that kind of gear, they can survive in this kind of stuff, we're hoping.
KING: Randy, that didn't happen when you were out for all those days, did it? You didn't have that equipment?
KNAPP: I'm not even sure they had satellites back then. It was 30 years ago. No, they didn't have GPS units.
KING: Nick, I know you've got to leave us. What conclusions can be drawn from the items in the snow cave?
PRYZYBYCIEL: Once again, I'm not a climber. So I don't know that. But what I can say is that right now, we are going forward with the search and rescue operation. That is still on, Larry. We're going to do everything possible, in our power, to get these people back home to their families.
KING: What time do you start out tomorrow? PRYZYBYCIEL: Start out bright and early, sir.
KING: And have you got a pretty good idea the track based on what you found today?
PRYZYBYCIEL: Captain Ross, who spoke to you earlier, his guys are getting together right now and putting together a game plan for tomorrow. They have some leads they found up there today. We'll be following up on that.
KING: Thanks, Nick. Nick Pryzybyciel, thanks for being with us, staff sergeant public affairs specialist.
We'll take another call. Santa Monica, California, hello.
CALLER: Hello. I've actually climbed Mt. Rainier. What's really curious to me is that you do need permits to climb Rainier. There is a very extended climbing season with Rainier. But they're very tough about it. I'm very curious to know, from some of the expert climbers that you have on the line, is there a climbing season for Hood? Were they outside of the climbing season? Did they have permits to climb Hood? What was going on? Why is it different in Oregon versus, say, on Rainier, which is a tougher mountain to climb?
AIRINGTON: From what I've heard, springtime is really the climbing season for Mt. Hood. Obviously, they wanted to do the north face, which is a much more difficult, technical route. So I understand that part of it, climbing it now.
When I first learned that they had left note in the car saying, you know, what they were doing, where they were going, the route, and everything like that, I was wondering, too, if they was able to check in with the ranger station. Because figuring that Mt. Hood does, you know, a lot of climbing there. That they would have a climbing service or a ranger station that would require you to check in.
KING: Randy, do you need permits?
KNAPP: Not on Mt. Hood. But it is customary practice to sign in at the bottom of any route that you climb. You kind of describe the route you're taking so that in case there are problems the searchers know where to look.
KING: OK, I asked this of Nick and he didn't know so let's try it for Keith, who climbs -- what do you think conclusions can be drawn from the items found in one of the caves. They left ice axes and rope and a sleeping bag. What do you make of that?
AIRINGTON: I would have to assume, being there for nine days, that's a lot of weight. If they were going to try to get off the mountain, it would have been easier probably to get up to the top. Sometimes it's easier to go ahead and climb up, than it is climbing down. And knowing that they were close to the summit and if they were going to try to get down on the other side, an ice axe doesn't give you a lot of balance, where I know we've always carried ski poles with us, which have a longer reach and offers a lot more protection, less weight.
I hate to think of why they'd leave a sleeping bag because from what I understand Kelly had his pack. So I don't know why they would not take that. But the ice axes I would understand, and rope, obviously.
KING: Randy, wouldn't that appear if they've left stuff like that to be more threatening, more pessimistic about them?
KNAPP: You know, my judgment down here, where it's not so cold, really doesn't mean anything. I -- you know, those guys up on the mountain, if they felt they need light packs, then they should leave stuff. You know, it's always a risk to leave stuff that might be of help later on. But they're the only ones that can make that choice. They're experienced enough that I believe they knew how to make the right choices. We may not understand them down here, but when they made them, I'm sure they were the best choices they could make at the time.
KING: If you've just joined us, you're watching a special Sunday night live edition of LARRY KING LIVE. With us are Randy Knapp, in Hood River, Oregon. He and two other teenagers survived 17 days lost on Mt. Hood, during a trek that started on New Year's Eve, in 1975.
In Dallas, Texas, Gary Brandenberg, he's Kelly James' pastor and senior pastor of the Fellowship Bible Church. In San Antonio is Keith Airington, long-time friend of the missing climber Kelly James and Brian hall, has known Kelly since college, taught him to climb, and climbed Washington's Mt. Rainier, with Kelly and Brian, in 1998.
With us, by phone, is CNN Correspondent Rick Sanchez. In Atlanta, our CNN Meteorologist Rob Marciano. At Hood River is Dan Simon, our CNN correspondent at the scene. And in Atlanta, is Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the CNN medical correspondent.
And a reminder, tomorrow night we'll have our special with Angelina Jolie, Robert DeNiro and Matt Damon. This hour is uninterrupted by commercials, and we are including your phone calls.
We go to one now, Oak Ridge, Oregon, hello.
CALLER: Yes, I was just wondering, does anyone have an idea how long they will continue this search, when it becomes finally more of not a rescue mission, but a recovery?
KING: Do we know that, Randy? What's the procedure? Do they keep on keeping on?
KNAPP: If I have my say, they keep on keeping on. You never, ever give up hope. Never. Not until we know for sure, do you ever give up hope. KING: Keith, you agree with that?
PRYZYBYCIEL: Yes, I do. Absolutely. You've got to -- even when it's way, way, way out the window, and you're assuming the worst, there is still that hope. You keep it going.
KING: Gary, have you spoken to the family since the events of today?
BRANDENBURG: No, I have not, Larry.
KING: Will you be in touch with them?
BRANDENBURG: I hope so. I've left a voice mail for Karen. I know that she's got her hands full right now, and I'm sure I'll be talking with her in the morning.
KING: It must be awfully difficult to minister to someone who is -- the chance is one in three, right, that two out of three he's not him, and one out of three it is.
BRANDENBURG: It is, but, you know, one of the things we've found throughout this past week is that these families -- I don't know who this one is, but I know that the other two families, all three of these families, will just be pulling for each other. We're going to continue to pray, we're going to continue to hope, and keep praying until we get those guys back.
KING: Rob, what's the weather forecast for the search?
MARCIANO: Pretty optimistic. Today was an amazing day. Couldn't really ask for a better day for visibility. There's your satellite picture. You see the Oregon/Washington states, pretty much clear. You also see the cloud cover that is streaming well north of the British Columbia. That's a good sign. That is the storm track.
Often when you get a vigorous storm, like we had last Thursday with winds over 100 miles an hour, that will be the pattern buster. That's what we saw. That's one of the reasons we have clear skies today, with very light winds, a rarity on Mt. Hood in Oregon. We'll have it again tomorrow.
But the clouds will increase. There's a weather system coming in, really Tuesday, but it's a pretty weak one. Should just bring cloud cover and light precipitation.
KING: Dr. Gupta, does the fact that it's sunny make it better for them, too?
GUPTA: Yeah. You know, just in terms of overall exposure risks, it does. It might be a little bit warmer as well. But, again, it's so hard to predict for any individual on any individual set of circumstances, just how much of a risk of hypothermia there is, which is probably still the biggest concern.
I don't know what kind of supplies they had in terms of water. Dehydration obviously a big risk at this point as well. Almost 10 days since they began their climb. But the sun helps, but it is very cold, from my understanding. Zero or even below even in the sunshine, Larry.
KING: Dan Simon, frankly, what's the mood there now?
SIMON: Well, Larry, I've got to tell you, it's not very upbeat. The fact that you did find this one deceased climber, the mood is -- it's a negative atmosphere, Larry. What can I say? You know, one thing that people were telling me today is that if these other two climbers, you know, had the strength to make their presence known, one would think they would do so.
Because, after all, you had so much activity in the air. It was so noisy. It was so clear outside that you would think that they would have the ability to do that perhaps. That's not to say that there still isn't some hope, as you've heard our guests say, but certainly the sentiment has definitely gone down, Larry.
KING: Keith Airington, based on, again, the limited knowledge we have, why would you guess the other two left the cave?
AIRINGTON: Again, I think after being nine days on the mountain, I think at some point you realize that you need to make a move. Because of your weakened condition, your mental state, I think at some point you say, OK, if I don't do something, I'm going to die right here. So a lot of times they'll -- people will get out and they'll make a move in hopes of being seen or able to make it down.
KING: Randy, I know after your survival you were also a minister of sorts as well. When you were here on Friday night, you were optimistic. Has that changed?
KNAPP: It can't change. I don't see any other alternative. We are human beings, and the best thing that we have is hope. If we give that up, I don't see a point of going on. You know, the great thing about believing in Jesus Christ is, we may have lost a brother, but Jesus said these strange words. "Though you may die, you'll yet live." If what he said was true -- and I believe it with all my heart -- we can still hope for the brother that we lost.
KING: The surviving --
KNAPP: He's got a future.
KING: The surviving climbers, Keith, still have their shovels apparently. Is that an advantage here?
AIRINGTON: For the surviving climbers?
AIRINGTON: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because, again, they can dig themselves a snow hole and get out of the elements. Absolutely. If they're in an area that's surrounded by ice, hard ice, you've got the shovels there to help break chips off, at least be able to get those in your mouth, if you don't have your portable stoves with you. So, yeah, shovels are a great, great tool and asset.
KING: Medford, Oregon, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry.
CALLER: I was just wondering, I'm from Oregon, and I've been up Mt. Pealson (ph) and Mt. Baldy and Mt. McLaughlin. And when I did, I had an experienced guide. I know that the one gentleman is from the East Coast, and I'm wondering about the other two, whether they're from Oregon and they had scoped out the trail, and known where they're going and planned their route?
KING: Keith, do we know?
AIRINGTON: Yeah. Yeah. Again, on Sunday night when Karen called me and told me the situation, I was -- I think she had been speaking to the sheriff's department. I got in touch with Portland Mountain Rescue, and Karen was going into Kelly's computer getting all the correspondence of anything that we could feed the rescue team, that might give them more info to track them. They had talked about quite a few different routes, variations, what ifs -- if they're on this part and this is a no-go, then they can revert to this.
So, yeah, it was well planned out, and my experiences with climbing with Kelly, we've always made big plans. Yeah, they're well versed in the routes.
KING: Randy, the first moment you knew you were going to be rescued, what did you hear? Did you hear helicopters? What happened?
KNAPP: No. When we were -- the day we got out, we actually were climbing up the mountain a ways before we could turn and go down to Timberline Lodge. We saw a group of climbers about 1,000 feet up the mountain from us. And we assumed that they were rescue searchers. So we waved at them and then turned to head down toward Timberline Lodge.
And they must have radioed the snow cat that delivered them up high on the mountain, because about a minute after we saw them, the snow cat came over on an adjacent ridge and pulled up in front of us. And then we were able to get a ride down in the snow cat.
KING: Dan, specifically, where were they found on the mountain? Where were the caves found?
SIMON: Well, this is on the Elliot Glacier, which is on the northwest side of the mountain, about 300 feet below the summit. And, Larry, just to reiterate, the second snow cave was actually an accidental discovery. They had zeroed in on that first cave based upon some cell phone data retrieved from Kelly James' cell phone. They had those pings.
So they knew where that snow cave was. They had a latitude and longitude. They got there today, and then when they had finished searching that cave. They searched the surrounding area and that's where they came across the second snow cave, Larry.
KING: Rob, we have a map of that, I understand?
MARCIANO: Yes, we'll show you the high-definition, or higher definition, map that we use for Google. This is the south side of the mountain. Again, this would be the typical route that they would -- that people would take in the springtime, pretty much right up the Palmer Glacier.
Then the northeast side is where these guys started their trek. You can see just from the shadows it's a much more steep terrain, at times 50, 60 degrees in pitch. And they go right up -- they supposedly went right up the Elliot Glacier here. Just a lot of ice walls and ice towers, that ice climbers will play or practice on.
Question is -- where was their cave? Somewhere close to the Elliot Glacier, which kind of feeds up the north side. So somewhere on the north or northwest side. Very short of the summit so, you know, an area just 300 feet below the summit.
Now, what these guys were planning to do was to come back down on the south side, which is the easier side. Sometimes coming down the mountain is even more dangerous than going up it, and make their way all the way to Timberline Lodge, which is kind of the home spot down through here at about 6,000 feet. That was their planned route. The cave found on the northwest side of the mountain, and they're going to get back on their search tomorrow. Once again, should be good weather and good visibility. They'll be able to fly the birds tomorrow to be able to try to find the other two.
KING: Hopefully. Hot Springs, Florida, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: My question is -- that when Kelly James phoned from his cell phone, was he able to describe his injuries, or did he describe an event that caused his injuries?
KING: Dan, do we know what happened with that call?
SIMON: Well, he called his family just to say that the three were in trouble. And the assumption the family made was he was injured, although he didn't exactly communicate to them that he was injured. But what happened is that he said he was holed up in the snow cave and that the other two went for help, Larry.
KING: What -- did they say any -- did they discuss that call with you, Gary?
BRANDENBURG: I did talk to Karen about that. That's correct, that he never said he was hurt, but it was so unlikely that the two would leave him there and -- so our hope, all along, was that somehow maybe they couldn't get down to help and went back and rejoined him. But it doesn't look like that's what happened. KING: Bradhurst (ph), New Brunswick, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: I would like to ask this evening if the different mountains carry statistics as to what the success rate of achieving the summit of the mountain is?
KING: Do we know that? Is that kept, Randy?
KNAPP: You know, I don't know the answer to that. I just know that a lot of people climb the Cascade Volcanoes, and, you know, this kind of thing is very rare.
KING: Keith, is Mt. Hood considered tough?
AIRINGTON: It's considered a ski mountain. A lot of ski activity on it. But the north face where they were climbing is very technical. I think we've heard reports of the north face, and the routes they were taking were 50, 55, 60 degree ice. That's extremely steep.
KING: Dr. Gupta, can you eat snow?
GUPTA: You can. That's a survival technique especially when someone is becoming very dehydrated. The risk, though, is you're sort of balancing these two things between dehydration and hypothermia. Again, Larry, we've been talking about that. So eating the snow might actually cool down your core temperature to some extent.
When you talk about hypothermia, we're actually talking about obviously you shiver and things like that, but it's your core temperature inside the body that's starting to fall. Once you get below about 92 degrees, which isn't a huge jump. I mean, 98.6, is our normal. We're talking about a six-degree drop. You start to have significant problems.
You start dropping below that, and you start to get very sleepy, drowsy. So eating snow might help with the dehydration, but it might lower your core temperature faster than you'd like, Larry.
KING: When you die, Dr. Gupta, do you just go to sleep?
GUPTA: Yeah. You know, that's right with hypothermia, specifically a lot of people have described, obviously, who have had significant hypothermia but have survived. That it's very peaceful. They get very drowsy and drift off.
You know, one thing that's very difficult as well, Larry, from a medical investigative standpoint is when these rescuers come upon a body in a hypothermic situation. The person is going to look dead. They may be pulse less. They'll be unconscious. And the typical teaching is that you typically start cardio pulmonary resuscitation in the assumption the person may still be alive, although they look dead and start warming them simultaneously, and warm their temperature back up to a normal temperature. And see if they somehow regain a pulse or something like that.
It's a difficult thing to do, obviously, in this situation, but I wonder if they were actually started some of that on this particular climber, tried to warm the person back up as well. Because it can be very difficult to tell sometimes when someone is hypothermic whether they're hypothermic or if they in fact have passed on.
KING: Randy, do you still climb?
KNAPP: Yes, I do. I was -- I had an unrelated injury -- injury unrelated to mountain climbing, about 16 or 17 years ago so I've slowed down a bit. I still try to climb a mountain or two a year.
KING: I know you have to leave us. One or two quick things: What's the kick of it?
KNAPP: You know, there's nothing like waking up early in the morning, high on the mountain and to see the first rays of the sun coming over the hills, to see some of the other mountains beginning to be lit up by that early morning light. The beauty of the ice encrusted rocks. The challenge of actually doing a difficult climb.
And the feeling of being in tune with your muscles, with your body. Everything working in concert to get you up a mountain. The feeling of the physical exertion and knowing that you can depend on your strength, on your skills, to do a challenging thing like that. It's real gratifying. It's really fun.
KING: And do you have to be in good shape?
KNAPP: I climb and I'm not in so good shape anymore, and I pay for it a bit. So I take the easy routes now.
KING: There are different routes you can take?
KNAPP: Yeah. You know, the north side of any mountain is going to be challenging, and so when I feel really good, when I feel in shape, I'll go ahead and try to take some of those north side routes. But anymore I'm happy with the easy routes.
KING: Randy, thanks for spending time with us. We really appreciate it.
KNAPP: You're welcome.
KING: Randy, he and two teenagers survived 17 days. So before you give up hope on these other two.
Gary, did Kelly James ever talk to you about his passion for climbing?
BRANDENBURG: Yeah. We did talk about that. Kelly is the kind of guy that he lives life to the fullest. He squeezes every ounce he can get out of life. I think that's what he had in common with the other two guys, as they went up that mountain. But he had a passion that climb. He doesn't like the status quo, and he's one of those kind of guys that -- he's going to refuse to live his life sitting in a recliner.
KING: Rick Sanchez, when you aped the experienced, was it the worst you had?
SANCHEZ: Yes. Because I've experienced hurricanes, but in a hurricane, you're in certainly tolerable weather, at least in terms of the heat. You know, nothing like when you're in 10 degrees, or freezing temperatures below that, zero, which is what you experience there. Imagine being in hurricane-force winds but the temperature is about 10 degrees. And what's blowing is snow, which is hitting you like small pebbles and hurting your face.
So it's -- you can't really open your eyes. You can't really see in front of you. You can barely walk because the wind is knocking you down. And all you can think of is, I have to find a place where I can create a snow cave and get out of these elements. That's what I imagine they had attempted to do at the time, Larry.
KING: By the way, don't forget tomorrow night, a very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, with Angelina Jolie, Robert DeNiro, and Matt Damon. All three, there you see them. All three, all together, tomorrow night on this program.
We asked it of Randy, Gary -- Keith Airington, why do you climb?
AIRINGTON: I think it was Randy that just summed it up. He gave a really good description of reasons why we do it. It is the beauty, beauty of the mountains, of nature, and, at the same time, it's fear, overcoming fear. Once you're down, safe, warm, dry, food, you look back and go, yeah, I did that. And you feel really good. A great sense of accomplishment.
But I can tell you when I speak about the beauty, if you've ever been on a mountain high at night and the moon's out, no storms, it's clear, the stars that you can see are tremendous. Something you can't see down below because the air is so pure up there and you really get a good look at the heavens.
KING: Is it hard to learn to do?
AIRINGTON: To climb?
AIRINGTON: No. It depends on what level you want to get into. Again, you could climb Mt. Rainier without any prior experience. You can go with a guide service. What they do is they'll put you through a day, day and a half of mountaineering school, to learn some basic techniques. It's a wonderful sport. Anybody can get into it. But there's, as you progress, a lot of technique, a lot of understanding of risk, and it gets a lot more involved. But, no, anybody can do it. It's a wonderful sport.
KING: Lucas, Kansas. Hello.
CALLER: Yeah, my name is Randy Morgenstern (ph). I was just wondering why, even though they were able to bring the rescuers down, they weren't able to go ahead and bring the deceased person down? I also want to let you know that our hearts are with the families this evening.
KING: Dan, would you guess as to why they didn't? Or did they tell you?
SIMON: They really didn't say, Larry, but it was so tough getting up there today, and to leave, for that matter. There wasn't a whole lot of daylight by the time they found the body. They want to give themselves plenty of time tomorrow, plenty of daylight, to accomplish it. And obviously to do it with a lot of sensitivity, too, Larry.
KING: What's your guess, Dan? Obviously they know who it is. Isn't it pretty obvious they would know who it is? If they do, why not say it?
SIMON: Well, it was told to me that they want to have positive confirmation in the sense that they want to have the family identify the victim. We're told that this particular gentleman did have some form of I.D. on him, so clearly whoever found him in the snow cave knows who it is. And obviously they would recognize him based upon the photographs that we've seen on television. But they want to do this absolutely the correct way, the correct legal way.
KING: Psychologically, Dr. Gupta, I know you're not a psychiatrist, but it does create a kind of hardship for all three, doesn't it?
GUPTA: Yeah, sure. I can't even imagine what that's like. One thing that's so striking to me, hearing the stories, I think the three families have probably galvanized together in a way that's really probably indescribable, having gone through this now for nine, ten days. I'm sure they're all sort of rooting for each other, and at the same time probably feeling the pain of each other's losses as well.
KING: Pastor Brandenburg, wouldn't you think it would be better if they informed who it is?
BRANDENBURG: Well, I think, you know -- I'm sure they'll be the first to know. That may be why the delay. They're going to be very appropriate and talk with the families first.
I think Dr. Gupta is right. These families have bonded together in such a strong way, and even when I talked to Karen yesterday, there's such a love and admiration even for the searchers and everybody surrounding this. There's just been incredible support and strength that has been shared out there in Oregon.
KING: Rob Marciano, are these kind of storms, mountain storms in the west, harder to forecast?
MARCIANO: Mountain forecasting is one of the more difficult areas of weather prediction. There's no doubt about that. Often it's been said mountains produce their own weather. To a certain extent that is true. There have been many cases, even in the springtime, when a surprise storm will roll in, or a seemingly weak storm will get in. And the mountain will intensify it to a point where, boom, you're in a blizzard.
Back in -- I want to say '86, sometime in the '80s, there was basically a field trip of teenagers that went up the mountain in May, which is the typical time to climb the southern route. And a number of them died because a storm, which was supposed to be no big deal, really whipped up into a frenzy once it hit that mountain.
You also have to remember, Larry, that especially in the Cascades, these are really the first line of defense as Pacific storms roll in. And Mt. Hood just gets hammered, as does Rainier, as does Jefferson and Three Sisters and all the other mountains, all the way down to Shasta.
They just get hammered with these pacific storms. The last one that came in was pretty much a category 3 hurricane. So number of factors lining up to make mountain weather not only difficult to forecast but difficult to survive.
KING: Gary, I know you will be praying with the family members. We wish you nothing but the best of luck. We thank you for participating with us tonight.
BRANDENBURG: Thank you, Larry. And thanks for covering this story. Thanks for all of the prayers that have gone out. I know Karen would want me to say that. They've felt such an incredible sense of support, all of the families, from all of the prayers across this country. Thanks a lot.
KING: By the way, she's been with us. She's awfully strong, isn't she?
BRANDENBURG: She's amazing. I mean, I take inspiration from her and from some of these other family members.
KING: Will you go there, by the way, Gary?
BRANDENBURG: Well, we'll wait to see what happens tomorrow. I told her last night, I said, you know, Karen, I would hop on a plane in a heartbeat if I thought I would be of help there. So we're just monitoring this situation every single day, and we're going to continue to pray until those two guys come home.
KING: Keith, I know two of them are your friends. Are you going to hang in San Antonio, or go there?
AIRINGTON: I'm very seriously thinking about hopping on a plane early in the morning, and getting up there. I spoke with Steve Rollins (ph) with Portland Mountain Rescue earlier in the week, and I offered my services to get up and be an extra person to help. But understandably so, without being certified in search and rescue, I just couldn't do it. I understand that decision, and I respect it.
KING: Search and rescue is not the same as mountain climbing, right?
AIRINGTONL: Right. There's a lot of techniques involved. You know, I fully understand, even though I do have a lot of experience, I'm not in tune with their services, their techniques, or anything like that. So I do understand his decision on that, and I respect it.
KING: Thank you, Keith. Keith Airington, long-time friend of two of the missing climbers, known Kelly since college and climbed Washington's Mt. Rainier with both Kelly and Brian.
Rick Sanchez, I thank you very much for your reports. I salute you for all you've done here. You like doing this, Rick, going where no one fears -- where people fear to tread?
SANCHEZ: I was talking to Jon Stewart the other day called me the George Plimpton of cable news.
KING: You are.
SANCHEZ: I tell you, I think, to a certain extent, it's interesting to show people what it's really like. To tell the story from the inside out, to give viewers a chance to really experience these stories. It's a different way of looking at something that sometimes, you know, it's not just the story as it is, but what else can we show the viewers to really make them understand these things?
And I think when we do this we -- it's illustrative for them. It is for me. It's amazing how much you learn whether you go on an experience like this, Larry.
KING: You do great work.
Rob Marciano, thank you for your outstanding work in meteorology. You keep all of us so well posted as to what happened, and what's going to happen.
MARCIANO: Thanks, Larry.
KING: Not the easiest job in the world.
And Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as always, arguably the best medical correspondent on television.
GUPTA: Thank you.
KING: You do sound work, and I don't advise taking up mountain climbing. I know you can be on the scene, but you don't have to be that close.
GUPTA: I'll take your good advice there, Larry. Thank you.
KING: Dan Simon, what will you be doing tomorrow, staying with it all day, on top of it? SIMON: Yes, indeed, Larry. We'll be up bright and early, and getting a sense in terms of how this day is going to unfold. Again, they're still in search and rescue mode as far as these two climbers are concerned.
KING: Do you know when they're bringing the body down?
SIMON: We don't, Larry. That's going to start in the morning as well, and, again, it's really tough to get to that particular area. So it could take some time.
KING: Thank you, again, Dan.
And thanks to all of our guests for being with us on this special live edition, Sunday night live edition, of LARRY KING LIVE, presented without commercial interruption. We thank the viewers and their phone calls as well.
Don't forget tomorrow night, Angelina Jolie, Robert DeNiro, Matt Damon, all three together on this program.
Stay tuned now for CNN NEWSROOM, with Carol Lin staying right on top of this story and lots of other news as well. I'm Larry King, for all of us here, to all of you there. Thanks for joining us. Carol is next. Good night.
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