Stranded Shasta climber feared dead
MOUNT SHASTA, Calif.-The climbing partner of a man stranded near the summit of Mount Shasta fears his friend is dead as stormy conditions have prevented rescue teams from searching for a second day, officials said Tuesday.
Mark Thomas, of Berkeley, was rescued Monday afternoon after he walked down the mountain in far Northern California to seek help. He told rescuers that his friend, Thomas Bennett, was unresponsive and he was afraid he was dead.
Powerful winds, freezing temperatures and poor visibility have prevented rangers from conducting a quick search-and-rescue mission, officials said.
Authorities are closely monitoring the weather, and rescue helicopters are on standby, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department.
“We’re really watching to make sure there’s not an opportunity to get up there,” said spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp.
Thomas told authorities that the two 26-year-olds had arrived on Mount Shasta Thursday night and had camped and hiked in several areas before they decided to climb the summit Saturday, officials said.
But after reaching the peak, the experienced climbers ran into strong winds that forced them to spend the night at about 14,050 feet, according to the sheriff’s department.
Thomas called 911 Sunday to report that they were unable to descend the 14,162-foot mountain after they encountered strong winds. He told authorities that Bennett was disoriented and appeared to have altitude sickness.
After his initial call, Thomas told officials he decided it was best for him to make it down the mountain on his own. He left Bennett, of Oakland, in a snow cave with water, candy bars and granola, officials said.
Thomas was in good condition after he descended the mountain and was found by rangers around 4 p.m. Monday. He had frostbite on one finger but declined medical attention. He was able to show authorities where Bennett was on a map.
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The cooler weather is about to end for Grass Valley, the National Weather Service said.