Sunday, February 26, 2012

Three More High Peaks Rescues This Weekend

Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has reported that Forest Rangers were busy this weekend with three more rescues from the High Peaks. Less than a week after Steve Mastaitis became disoriented at the summit of Marcy and spent the night in a snow cave, three additional men became lost in the High Peaks, two were forced to spend the night in the back-country and suffered frostbite.

“The Forest Rangers have had a very busy and successful week beginning with the search for Mr. Mastaitis,” said DEC Forest Ranger Captain John Streiff. “Any one of these incidents could have ended in tragedy, fortunately they didn’t. I am proud and pleased with the actions of all of the forest rangers involved, but I want to recognize Forest Rangers Scott VanLaer, Chris Kostoss and Joe LaPierre for participating in all three searches this weekend and the search for Mr. Mastaitis.”

The first incident began for the Forest Rangers on Saturday, at 4:50 pm when Essex County 911 transferred a cell phone call from Mike Jones, 42, of Andover, CT, to the DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook. Jones reported that he had attempted to hike to the top of Algonquin Mountain on Friday afternoon when he was forced off the trail by high winds and snow. He had bushwhacked down a drainage area and spent the night in hole in the snow. In the morning he continued downhill until he encountered a trail marker and was able to obtain cell phone service. He had no idea where he was and stated he was wet and very cold. Jones also indicated that he was visiting the area by himself and had not told anyone of his plans to climb Algonquin Mountain, therefore nobody had, or could have, reported him missing.

DEC Dispatch worked with Essex County 911 obtain his cell phone coordinates. It was determined that Jones was on the Indian Pass Trail southwest of Rocky Falls approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead at Adirondack Loj. Three Forest Rangers responded, snowmobiling part of the way down the trail and then skiing the remainder of the way. Deep fresh snow required the Forest Rangers to break trail while on skis, they reached Jones at 6:42 pm.

Jones had lost most of his gear and some of his clothing during the night. He appeared to be suffering from hypothermia and frostbite to his hands and feet. After feeding, clothing and warming him, the Forest Rangers helped walk him back to the snowmobile and then transported him by snowmobile to the South Meadow Road. He was transferred to the Lake Placid Rescue Squad at 8:37 pm and transported to Adirondack Medical Center in Lake Placid for further medical evaluation and treatment.

At 7:30 pm on Saturday, DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call from the wife of Brian Sullivan, 62, of Brooklyn, NY, reporting him overdue. Sullivan had left from The Garden trailhead at 10:30 am and planning to ski to the Mt. VanHovenburg Ski Center at the Olympic Sports Complex via Johns Brook, the Klondike Notch Trail and the Mr. Van Trail. Staff from the ski center patrolled the nearby portions of the Mr. Van Trail but had not seen Sullivan.

Seven DEC Forest Rangers, including the three forest rangers from the previous search, responded and began search from the two ends of Sullivan’s planned route. A Forest Ranger on a snowmobile on the South Meadow Road heard shouting shortly before 9 pm. He stopped, turned off the snowmobile and took off his helmet allowing him to clearly hear Sullivan’s shouts from the other side of South Meadow Brook. The Forest Ranger directed Sullivan across the brook, met up with him and found that he was in good condition. He was transported by snowmobile to the Adirondack Loj and reunited with his family at 9:30 pm.

At 11:38 pm on Saturday DEC Central Dispatch received a call from the girlfriend of Matthew Bradley reporting him overdue. He had left from The Garden Trailhead on Saturday, planning to snowshoe to the summit of Mt. Marcy via Johns Brook and either the Phelps trail or the Hopkins Trail. He then planned to continue to Adirondack Loj Trailhead via the VanHovenberg Trail.

Eleven Forest Rangers, including three forest rangers who had participated in the previous two searches, responded and searched through the night. DEC Central Dispatch had very limited and sporadic cellphone contact with Bradley because his cell phone battery was dying. Dispatchers were unable to get location information from him or obtain the coordinates of his cell phone. At 5 am Mr. Bradley was able to place a quick call from his cell phone and provide the coordinates from his GPS. Forest Rangers determined that he was off trail in a drainage area on the southwestern slopes of Table Top Mountain.

Forest Rangers reached Bradley at approximately 9:20am. He had moderate hypothermia and possible frostbite. Forest Rangers provided him food and then escorted him to an open area for retrieval. Bradley was hoisted into a State Police Aviation Unit helicopter with a Forest Ranger operating the hoist and transported to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for further medical evaluation and treatment.

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2 Responses

  1. Mom says:

    Great Job!

  2. Dave Gibson says:

    Season in, season out, the NYS DEC Forest Rangers prove themselves to be the nation’s best at wilderness search and rescue and emergency incident response. The Rangers work on intellitently fighting forest fires is also renowned, but better known in the west than here at home. I am glad that the Captain (Streiff) and Adk Almanack report on the Rangers’ remarkable dedication and work on a regular basis. Much more can be done to document what they do and their impressive 125 year history, last published in 1987 by Capt (retired) Lou Curth.