Man missing on Mount Shasta, friend rescued

March 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Trail Boss News

MOUNT SHASTA, Calif. (AP) — A California man was rescued Monday from Mount Shasta, but his climbing partner remained missing and was believed to be trapped near the summit, where stormy conditions restricted search operations. Mark Thomas called 911 Sunday to report that he and his friend were near the top of the 14,162-foot mountain and needed help. The 26-year-old told authorities his friend was disoriented and appeared to have altitude sickness.

Thomas, of Berkeley, left 26-year-old Thomas Bennett of Oakland and walked down the mountain for help, said Susan Gravenkamp, a spokeswoman at the Siskiyou County Sheriff Department.

<a href=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/jump/news.earthlink.dart/news_300x250_top;abr=!ie;a=0;b=0;c=0;d=0;e=0;f=0;g=0;z=0;sz=300×250;ptile=5;ord=43704522?”><img style=”float:right;margin-left:5px” src=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/ad/news.earthlink.dart/news_300x250_top;abr=!ie;a=0;b=0;c=0;d=0;e=0;f=0;g=0;z=0;sz=300×250;ptile=5;ord=43704522?” border=0 height=”250″ width=”300″></a>”It sounded like he was in good condition,” Gravenkamp said of Thomas. “He was able to show where his friend was on the map. He’s at over 14,000 feet, and there’s no way to get a helicopter up there today.”

Gravenkamp said high winds and storm conditions were prohibiting rescuers from reaching the top of the mountain. Storms were forecast for the mountain until Thursday, and it was unclear when rescuers would be able to search for Bennett.

Two U.S. Forest Service rangers saw footprints and found Thomas at about 4 p.m. Monday. He had frostbite on one finger but declined medical attention.

Eric White, the lead climbing ranger on Mount Shasta for the U.S. Forest Service, described a scene that did not appear conducive to a quick search and rescue.

Winds on the mountain were blowing 60-70 mph, dropping overnight temperatures at the peak to well below freezing. The wind was so forceful it was blowing snow and creating whiteout conditions while turning the mountain’s surface into hard-pack ice, he said.

The conditions forced White to turn back Monday after reaching the 9,000-foot level, well below the summit.

“There’s no visibility and very high winds right now and just very high risk trying to get up to that elevation,” he said.

<a href=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/jump/news.earthlink.dart/news_300x250_bottom;abr=!ie;a=0;b=0;c=0;d=0;e=0;f=0;g=0;z=0;sz=300×250;ptile=5;ord=43704522?”><img style=”float:right;margin-left:5px” src=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/ad/news.earthlink.dart/news_300x250_bottom;abr=!ie;a=0;b=0;c=0;d=0;e=0;f=0;g=0;z=0;sz=300×250;ptile=5;ord=43704522?” border=0 height=”250″ width=”300″></a>He said Thomas and Bennett had established a camp several thousand feet below the summit, so they did not have their tent with them when the storm set in. He believes the remaining hiker is huddled in a snow cave.

Thomas, who has climbed Mt. Shasta several times, walked down to about 3,500 feet, getting within two miles of the rescue operations camp.

Gravenkamp, of the sheriff’s department, said it was the first time Thomas had climbed the steeper and more challenging northern side of the mountain. She did not know Bennett’s climbing experience, although both climbers belong to an outdoors club in the San Francisco Bay area.

The pair failed to fill out a $25 climbing report, making it tough for rangers to pinpoint where they had planned to head up the mountain, Gravenkamp said.

“The whole point of checking in is for their safety so we know when they left and where they are going,” she said. “They didn’t do that.”

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