PORTLAND -- Rescuers on Monday reached the three snowshoers who got lost on Mt. Hood over the weekend and led them safely back to the arms of family members eagerly waiting at the trailhead.
It took several hours to get Mark Kelsey, Margarita Estrada and Deborah Shindler off the mountain, since they had ventured quite a distance from the White River Sno-Park, where they had started their snowshoe trek on Saturday.
Physically, they were just fine. But Estrada said the experience really strained her emotionally. The three friends had gone on the snowshoeing trip as a special way to celebrate her birthday and after they got lost, Margarita worried that she might never see her family again.
"I am very thankful for the rescue team to be here. They are like angels that came in and saved us," Estrada said through tears. "Now I just want to go home and be with my boys for Christmas."
Kelsey, Estrada and Shindler had planned to spend the night in a mountain cabin, but never found the road leading into it. They managed to call 911 for help from a cell phone on Sunday, after already spending one night in a shelter they built from debris. They said they had food and sleeping bags with them but were almost out of supplies.
All three of the snowshoers were experienced, especially Kelsey. He has summitted Mt. Hood hundreds of times and also worked with Portland Mountain Rescue in the past.
"The irony of all this is that I put in 18 years in with [Portland] Mountain Rescue and now I get to deal with the fact that mountain rescue has rescued me," Kelsey said with a smile Monday.
Rescuers searched areas northwest of the snow park Sunday, until they had to suspend operations due to poor weather and darkness. The trio's cell phone signal was traced, but authorities were not able to get any additional calls through.
Monday morning, about 20 searchers on snow cats and skis were checking areas near the White River drainage when they found the three friends around 11 a.m., according to detective Matt English with the Hood River Sheriff's Office.