LAKE PLACID — A winter rescue Tuesday morning brought a Saratoga Springs man safely down from the frozen heights of Mount Marcy.
Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers facilitated the airlift after the hiker spent a frigid Monday night on the tallest peak in New York state.
DEC spokesman David Winchell said Stephen Mastaitis, 58, became separated from his hiking party Monday afternoon on the summit of Mount Marcy.
"With gusting winds on the top and blowing snow, he ended up heading down the back side of the mountain," Winchell told the Press-Republican.
"Members of the hiking group reported him missing to a volunteer assistant forest ranger who was on patrol at approximately 1:50 p.m. Monday," Winchell relayed in a news release.
TALKED BY PHONE
"DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook was able to contact Mr. Mastaitis via cell phone," Winchell said. "He reported he was approximately 500 feet below the summit on the top of steep cliffs.
"Based on his cell-phone location and the description he provided, it was determined he was at the head of Panther Gorge on the southeast side of Mt. Marcy."
Gusting winds that afternoon prevented helicopters from reaching the mountain summit.
"But we were able to insert forest rangers at Lake Colden Landing Zone," Winchell said.
RANGERS HIKED UP
"Four forest rangers hiked to the summit and searched for Mr. Mastaitis, but search efforts were called off at midnight due to severe weather. They hiked down to Marcy Dam Outpost to spend the night."
The temperature dropped to single digits overnight, Winchell said, with winds gusting between 30 and 35 miles per hour, delivering a wind-chill factor near 20 below.
HELICOPTERS JOIN IN
The ground and air search resumed at 3 a.m. Tuesday, with calmer winds allowing helicopters to assist.
"Forest rangers met at the Adirondack Loj to receive search assignments. At 4 a.m., a group of five forest rangers began the hike up to Mt. Marcy. Two New York State Police Aviation Unit helicopters, with forest rangers on board, joined the search," Winchell said.