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Lost hiker airlifted off Mt. Marcy after frigid night - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Lost hiker airlifted off Mt. Marcy after frigid night

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Courtesy: N.Y. DEC Courtesy: N.Y. DEC
Courtesy: N.Y. DEC Courtesy: N.Y. DEC
Courtesy: N.Y. DEC Courtesy: N.Y. DEC
Courtesy: N.Y. DEC Courtesy: N.Y. DEC
Courtesy: N.Y. DEC Courtesy: N.Y. DEC
KEENE, N.Y. -

"He said it was one of the longest nights of his life," said Scott Murphy, a N.Y. forest ranger.

That's what forest rangers say Stephen Mastaitis told them after spending the night stranded 500 feet from the summit of Mount Marcy. Rangers say the 58-year-old from Saratoga Springs climbed the state's highest peak early Monday afternoon with his two sons. But they split up on their way down and the father became lost.

"When the wind kicked up in the afternoon and the snow was blowing across the summit, the visibility was instantly reduced. So when he stepped off the trail he wasn't able to see his own tracks and didn't know where the trail was," Murphy said.

Forest rangers began an immediate search and were able to locate Mastaitis' approximate location via cellphone conversations with him. But due to severe weather conditions, rescue crews were forced to call off the search at midnight. The snow was shoulder deep and the wind was too strong.

"Even the assistant ranger was saying his tracks 25 yards back were disappearing," Murphy said. "As it turned out, our rangers were within 150 yards last night, but as windy as it was, they could not have heard each other. They were calling out and the subject never heard them."

Mastaitis was not dressed for an overnight stay on the mountain. Temperatures dropped to nearly zero and the wind chill made it feel closer to 20 below.

"He spent the night in a snow shelter he made, told us he was shivering, trying to keep his fingers moving, trying not to fall asleep," Murphy said.

The search resumed early Tuesday morning and rangers located the mountain climber around 8:30 a.m. near the area where he got lost.

"As soon as we cleared the last little high ground, the nearest ranger was still calling, the subject stood up and called back," Murphy said.

An hour later Mastaitis was hoisted off Mount Marcy by a N.Y. State police helicopter and flown to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake.

Mastaitis will spend the night at the hospital for observation. He is listed in good condition.

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