Lost Mt. Hood climbers had active faiths

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MOUNT HOOD — For the second time in three years, the joy of the Christmas season has been subdued by grief over the loss of three Christian climbers on this highest peak in Oregon.  Rescue teams on Dec. 16 halted the five-day search for two climbers who remained missing although the body of a third climber was found.  Missing and presumed dead are Katie Nolan, 29, of southeast Portland, and Anthony Vietti, 25, of Longview, Wash. The body of Luke Gullberg, 26, of Des Moines, Wash., was found on Dec. 12. The three had begun their trek up the mountain Dec. 11. A medical coroner determined that Gullberg died not from a fall, but from hypothermia.

Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts announced the end of the search, saying that weather forced the very painful decision to discontinue the rescue efforts.

At a news conference the same day, both Vietti’s father, John Vietti, and Nolan’s father, David Nolan, praised the search parties for all their work under very difficult condition.

Vietti described his son’s and his family’s faith, saying he had taken his son camping on the mountain at an early age to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

As reported by The Oregonian, the elder Vietti quoted the Bible about living an abundant life, and said the young climbers’ lives were full not because of their accomplishments, but “because they served God.”

The last contact he said he had with his son was a handwritten note and a Christian jazz CD that he had sent to his mother for her birthday.

Vietti acknowledged the many friends and supporters who offered prayers for his son, and while God’s answer to the rescue of the climbers was “no,” he said, the prayers of many have nevertheless strengthened their families.

Nolan said his daughter loved the mountain so much that she wanted to be buried on it, “and right now she is.”

He added that he had no anger regarding the mountain, still considered it “rather majestic and beautiful,” and that God had given him peace about Katie’s death.

The Associated Press reported that Dennis Simons, a volunteer chaplain for the police and fire departments in nearby Sandy, said the three climbers had met through church activities and Nolan had traveled extensively for Christian causes. An OregonLive.com blogger said he had attended Philadelphia (Pa.) Biblical University with Nolan.

Gullbert was a sales clerk at the outdoor retailer and cooperative REI in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, and he studied writing and English at Central Washington University. Memorial service for him was held Dec. 20 at Pacific Middle School in Des Moines.

Nolan grew up in Walla Walla, Wash., and lived in Portland for about three years. She worked as an outreach advocate for Catholic Charities’ housing assistance progra for homeless women and had recently started work on a master’s degree in social work at Portland State University. Nolan also was working with another nonprofit organization based in Hillsboro, Transitions Global, to establish a shelter in Portland for people enslaved in worldwide sex trafficking,

Memorial service for Nolan was Dec. 22 at Portland Foursquare Church.

Memorial service for Vietti was held Dec. 21 at The Bridge Church in Kelso, Wash.

Simons also told CBS-TV’s The Early Show that the three climbers’ families — all Christian — were drawing strength from their faith in God and from each other.

In December 2006, another trio of Christian climbers — Kelly James, Brian Hall and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke —were lost on the mountain, also attracting national headlines. James’ body was the only of the three to be found.

The loss of the latest group sparked fresh debate about the wisdom of climbing the 11,249-foot mountain during the winter, when severe storms can move in suddenly.

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