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Hiker airlifted from Mt. Marcy after frigid overnight (update)

February 21, 2012
By MIKE LYNCH - Outdoors Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - Forest rangers Tuesday morning rescued a missing hiker from Mount Marcy, where he spent Monday night.

Stephen Mastaitis, 58, of Saratoga Springs, was located at 8:31 a.m. by a group of forest rangers conducting a ground search. He was conscious and coherent, but he said he was cold, according to a statement released Tuesday by state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Dave Winchell.

Mastaitis was airlifted off Mount Marcy at 9:38 a.m. and flown directly to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for further medical evaluation. AMC spokesman Joe Riccio said Tuesday Mastaitis was admitted for observation and in good condition.

Mastaitis became separated from his hiking party on the summit of Mount Marcy, the state's highest point, early Monday afternoon, according to the DEC. A search was initiated later that afternoon after members of his hiking party alerted a volunteer assistant forest ranger of the situation at about 2 p.m.

Sometime later Monday, the DEC dispatch center in Ray Brook was able to contact Mastaitis via cell phone. He reported that he was about 500 feet below the summit on top of steep cliffs. Based on cell phone location technology and the description Mastaitis provided, it was determined he was at the head of Panther Gorge on the southeast side of Mount Marcy.

Winds prevented helicopters from reaching the summit of the mountain Monday, but they were able to drop off forest rangers at a landing area at nearby Lake Colden, which is also in the High Peaks Wilderness Area.

Four forest rangers hiked to the summit and searched for Mastaitis, but their effort was called off at midnight due to severe weather conditions, according to Winchell. After turning back, they hiked down to Marcy Dam outpost to spend the night.

At 3 a.m., forest rangers met at Adirondak Loj to receive search assignments and begin the search once again. At 4 a.m., a group of four forest rangers began the hike up to Mount Marcy.

Weather conditions allowed for helicopters to participate in the rescue Tuesday. Two state police helicopters with forest rangers on board joined the effort Tuesdasy morning. Overall, 20 forest rangers were assigned to it.

State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queenbsbury, who was contacted about Mastaitis being missing by a friend of the family Monday, issued a statement thanking the rescuers Tuesday.

"A disaster was averted on Marcy Mountain due to the tremendous teamwork of our DEC forest rangers, Ray Brook dispatchers and New York State Police," Little said in the statement. "After hearing from a friend of the family last night, I was in contact with Region 5 DEC Director Bob Stegemann and State Police Major Rick Smith and was assured everything was being done to find the missing hiker. Fortunately, the lost hiker was able to make cell contact and his whereabouts were quickly identified but his location made rescue a challenge. I thank all involved for a great life-saving effort."



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