Speaking to reporters in Hood River, Hood County (Ore.) Sheriff Joe Wampler said Monday the discovery Sunday of a pair of ice axes at the scene was a disturbing clue that could indicate the men may have fallen while trying to descend.
"Those are the shoes for your hands," Wampler said. "I wouldn't leave those behind."
Brian Hall, 37, of Dallas, Jerry Cooke, 36, of New York, and Kelly James, 48, of Dallas began the ascent of the 11,239-foot peak on Dec. 8. Two days later James used his cell phone to call his family and said he was in a snow cave and the other two men had set out for help.
James' body was recovered from a snow cave near the summit Monday by Air Force Reserve pararescue jumpers.
A severe winter storm has hampered search efforts and dumped as much as 10 feet of snow and rescuers were considering using a helicopter to blow away snowdrifts to help locate the missing men, the report said.