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Hot dog helps climbers survive

February 20, 2007|Sam Howe Verhovek | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — Three climbers can thank their black Labrador for keeping them warm until their rescue from Oregon's highest peak Monday, a day after they had slipped and fallen into a crevasse.

One rescuer said the dog, Velvet, had played a critical role in keeping the man and two women warm enough in "hellacious" winds and heavy snow on Mt. Hood.

"The dog probably saved their lives" by lying across the three of them during the night, said Erik Brom, a member of Portland Mountain Rescue, a volunteer group that helped locate the missing climbers shortly before 11 a.m.

The happy ending to the tale contrasted with a tragedy on 11,239-foot Mt. Hood that captured international attention in December, when one climber died and two companions went missing and are presumed dead after bad weather struck them near the summit.

The three rescued climbers "did everything right, and that's what makes the difference between a successful rescue and a recovery," Lt. Nick Watt, a spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Department.

One woman was taken to the hospital for a possible concussion sustained in the fall; the other two appeared to be OK. They walked down much of the mountain and rejoined five climbers who had been on their team, Watt said.

Velvet, who was attached to a rope the climbers were holding when they slipped over the edge, appeared unhurt.

Another key element in the rescue was a locator unit the climbers carried.

They activated the transmitter shortly after they fell into White River Canyon on Sunday during near white-out conditions, about 8,200 feet up the mountain.

The beacon helped the rescue team find the climbers.

Authorities identified the two climbers in good condition as Matty Bryant and Kate Hanlon, both 34-year-old schoolteachers in suburban Portland, Ore.

The name of the injured woman, who was taken to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, had not been released Monday evening.

When the rescue party reached a spot where the injured climber could be transferred from a snow machine to a waiting ambulance, one woman -- identified as Hanlon by two of the rescuers -- told two local television news reporters who had asked how she was doing: "We're soaking wet and freezing."

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sam.verhovek@latimes.com

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