Two climbers, one with altitude sickness, stranded on Shasta

Rangers are determining whether they can rescue two climbers stranded on Mount Shasta over the weekend.

At about 9 a.m. on Sunday, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office received a 9-1-1 cell phone call from Mark Thomas of Berkeley, Calif., reporting that his climbing partner, Thomas Bennett, of Vancouver, British Columbia, had become ill near the summit of Mount Shasta at an elevation of about 14,050 feet, sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said in a release this morning.

Thomas told a dispatcher that he and Bennett were near the Whitney Bolam Ridge on the north side of the mountain. He said Bennett was confused, disoriented and losing his coordination and balance because of altitude sickness.

They had spent the night on the mountain, taking shelter by some rocks, but strong winds made it too dangerous for them to descend, he said.

Thomas reported that they had about a liter of water, some candy bars and granola with them. He provided both climbers' cell phone numbers, and the call was brief to conserve the cell phone batteries.

The sheriff's office search and rescue team and the U. S. Forest Service were alerted. The Forest Service said that the men did not fill out a wilderness permit.

Unsafe weather conditions prevented ground crews from climbing the mountain, Gravenkamp's news release said. Winds, which the National Weather Service reported hit 55 mph, prevented any type of helicopter search for the two men.

Return calls to the cell phone numbers left by Thomas were not answered Sunday. At about 3:50 p.m. he called the sheriff's office dispatch again and said that their Subaru was parked at the Whitney Glacier Trailhead and that his partner was seriously ill.

Sheriff's deputies and Forest Service personnel searched the roads and trailheads on the north side of the mountain and found Bennett's Subaru at 6:40 p.m. about 4.5 miles in from Highway 97 on Military Pass Road.

The weather prevented any type of rescue efforts late on Sunday. There has been no cell phone contact with Mark Thomas since Sunday afternoon.

Two Forest Service mountain rangers on snowmobiles went to the mountain this morning to see if a rescue is possible with the current snow and weather conditions. Gravenkamp said additional information will be released as it comes in.

She didn't have details about the two men, including their ages or mountain climbing experience.

— Anita Burke

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