Weather hampers search for US climbers in China

BEIJING – High winds and blizzards hampered the search Monday for two U.S. mountain climbers after the body of a third American climber was found buried in an avalanche in southwestern China, an official said.

A nine-person rescue team, including two Americans, started up Mount Gongga early Monday, the third such effort since the three climbers disappeared in Sichuan province late last month, said Gao Min, a spokesman for the Sichuan Mountaineering Association.

"Our search team has encountered extremely challenging conditions today with the intense winds, potential for avalanches and heavy snowfall," Gao said. "Right now, we're just counting on search devices, such as metal detectors, to help us."

The body of Jonathan "Jonny" Copp of Boulder, Colorado, was found Saturday on Mount Gongga. The death of Copp, 35, was the first on Mount Gongga since 2001, Gao said.

Micah Dash, 32, also of Boulder, and Wade Johnson, 24, of Arden Hills, Minnesota, remain missing. The three men were last heard from on May 20 at the base camp of Mount Edgar, a Mount Gongga peak.

Gao said it was difficult to pinpoint an approximate location of the two climbers, since an avalanche could have swept them miles apart.

The team, which included Chinese and Sichuan Mountaineering Association rescuers, was expected to reach the Mount Edgar base camp Tuesday, Gao said.

Gongga, Tibetan for "highest snowcapped mountain," attracts both tourists and mountaineers. It is 24,790 feet 7,556 meters above sea level, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Johnson was working for Boulder-based Sender Films, which makes climbing and outdoor adventure films.

A young sea turtle is seen on Runduma island, Wakatobi. AFP/File/Adek Berry