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Rangers rescue three more in High Peaks

February 27, 2012
By MIKE LYNCH - Outdoors Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - Forest rangers rescued three more people in the eastern High Peaks Wilderness this weekend, including two who spent unplanned nights in the woods.

One snowshoer spent the night out after he tried to climb Algonquin Peak Friday; the other had been attempting Mount Marcy Saturday.

The rescues come less than a week after a Saratoga Springs snowshoer, Steve Mastaitis, spent an unplanned night in a snow cave he dug near the summit of Mount Marcy. Forest rangers rescued Mastaitis Tuesday morning.

Article Photos

Forest rangers gather in the High Peaks Information Center parking lot early Sunday afternoon after returning from a successful search and rescue on Mount Marcy.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)

The first rescue this weekend took place Saturday evening and involved Mike Jones, a 42-year-old man from Andover, Conn.

Jones had attempted to climb Algonquin Friday, but he encountered problems due to a snowstorm.

"The winds pushed him off the summit toward the west, and he ended up towards Scotts Clearing," said Forest Ranger Joe LaPierre in the Adirondack Mountain Club's High Peaks Information Center parking lot early Sunday afternoon.

After losing his way high on Algonquin, Jones bushwacked down a drainage and spent the night in a snow cave. Temperatures hit single digits and perhaps lower in the backcountry that night.

In the morning, Jones continued downhill and eventually encountered the Indian Pass Trail between Scotts Clearing and Rocky Falls.

That evening at about 5 p.m., while on the Indian Pass Trail, Jones called 911, saying that he was cold, wet and lost.

The call was transferred to the DEC dispatch center in Ray Brook, where a dispatcher was able to pinpoint his location. Jones was southwest of Rocky Falls, about 2.5 miles from the Adirondak Loj, LaPierre said.

Forest rangers Scott Van Laer, Chris Kostoss and LaPierre then responded to the emergency. Van Laer skied to Jones while the two other rangers took a snowmobile.

When they found Jones at about 6:45 p.m., he had lost much of his gear and even some of his clothing as a result of his ordeal. He was suffering from hypothermia and appeared to have frostbite on his hands and feet.

"He couldn't grip anything," LaPierre said. "His hands were that frozen. They were that cold."

After feeding, clothing and warming Jones, the forest rangers walked him a short distance to the snowmobile rescue sled. From there, they brought him back to the Adirondak Loj, where they arrived at about 8:30 p.m. The Lake Placid Rescue Squad then transported Jones to Adirondack Medical Center in Lake Placid.

On Sunday afternoon, Adirondack Medical Center spokesman Joe Riccio said Jones had been admitted to the main hospital in Saranac Lake and was being cared for there.

Jones hadn't been reported missing earlier Saturday because he hadn't told anyone he was hiking Algonquin.


A night on Marcy

The other man who spent an unplanned night in the woods was 36-year-old Matthew Bradley of Lee, Mass.

Bradley became the second hiker within the past week to spend a night in a snow cave on Mount Marcy, although he was much lower on the mountain than Mastaitis had been Monday night.

Forest rangers found Bradley Sunday morning off the trails in a drainage area on the southwestern slopes of Table Top Mountain, a few miles downhill from the summit of Marcy.

Bradley had left from the Garden Trailhead in Keene Valley on Saturday, planning to snowshoe to the summit of Mount Marcy via Johns Brook and either the Phelps Trail or the Hopkins Trail. He then planned to continue to the Adirondak Loj trailhead via the Van Hoevenberg Trail.

He eventually wound up getting lost off the Van Hoevenberg Trail near Indian Falls.

The search for Bradley started after his girlfriend called a forest ranger at about 11:30 Saturday night. At about the same time, Bradley used his cell phone to call for help, but reception was spotty and he also wasn't able to provide forest rangers with accurate information about his location. He had a GPS with him, but the batteries had gone dead because of the cold weather.

The initial search party consisted of LaPierre and Van Laer. They reached Indian Falls by about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning.

"It was cold. The wind was blowing a little bit. We were yelling," LaPierre said.

But the two men didn't have any luck locating Bradley, so they headed out of the woods. About that same time, a new search party of forest rangers was heading up the trail.

At about 5 a.m., Bradley was able to briefly use his cell phone and relay his coordinates from his GPS, which had begun to work again. Searchers finally located Bradley at about 9:30 a.m.

Forest rangers Charlie Platt, Delbert Jeffrey and Thomas Gliddi were the first to find Bradley.

"He had made a little snow cave, and he had spent the night with a space blanket," Gliddi said. "Then he got up in the morning, and he left that little cubby and walked up into the woods. We found him there."

Gliddi estimated Bradley was two-tenths of a mile from the Van Hoevenberg Trail. He was in thick spruce forest with deep snow. That night temperatures were below zero.

"He was in tough shape, trembling all over," Gliddi said.

Bradley had hypothermia with possible frostbite.

"We gave him some hot liquids, gave him some food to eat," Gliddi said. "He was mobile, so we were able to get him to an area where it was open enough that we could hoist him out."

Bradley was airlifted by a helicopter to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake.

Riccio said Bradley was treated and released Sunday.

Eleven forest rangers participated in the search.


Missing skier

The third rescue this weekend in the High Peaks took place not far from the Klondike Notch Trailhead off South Meadow Road. It was squeezed in between the rescue of Jones and Bradley Saturday evening.

This rescue involved 62-year-old Brian Sullivan of Brooklyn, who had planned to ski to the Mount Van Hoevenburg nordic 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.

Sullivan started the trip at 10:30 a.m. Around 7:30 p.m., his wife reported him overdue. Seven forest rangers began searching from both ends of Sullivan's planned ski route.

Sullivan was located at about 9 p.m., when LaPierre heard him shouting in the vicinity of the Klondike Notch Trailhead, near where the bridge had been washed away during Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28.

LaPierre said Sullivan, who had a bivy sack, had been preparing to set up for the night when he found him. LaPierre used a snowmobile to bring him back to the Adirondak Loj by 9:30 p.m.

In a written statement, Forest Ranger Capt. John Streiff congratulated the rangers for their efforts over the past week.

"The forest rangers have had a very busy and successful week beginning with the search for Mr. Mastaitis," Streiff said. "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 Van Laer, Chris Kostoss and Joe LaPierre for participating in all three searches this weekend and the search for Mr. Mastaitis."

It was definitely a rare weekend for the rangers.

"It's been a while since we've been that busy in a week, where we've had that many calls in the High Peaks," LaPierre said.

LaPierre did note that all three men who were rescued this weekend were travelling by themselves, which can be dangerous this time of year.

"It's highly encouraged to travel in a group during the winter," he said. "So many more things can go wrong."



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