The family and the climbing partner of an Oakland man who was found dead on Mt. Shasta this morning released a statement today detailing the climb and recalling their loved one.
Thomas Bennett, 26, was a chemical engineer who attended school in
Vancouver, British Columbia, and then worked for a mining company at high
altitudes in the Andes Mountains without ever experiencing any trouble with
altitude sickness, according to Bennett's father.
His climbing partner on the trip, 26-year-old Mark Thomas, of
Berkeley, is an experienced climber who has climbed Mt. Shasta numerous times
and has also scaled Mt. McKinley in Alaska.
Thomas said Bennett appeared to have suffered from altitude
sickness over the weekend, which left him stranded on Mt. Shasta.
The pair had purchased mountain summit passes in advance of their
trip and had left a detailed itinerary with friends before heading out on
Thursday. They were prepared with proper climbing equipment and cold-weather
gear, Thomas said. He added that when they left, avalanche and weather
reports did not indicate warnings of severe weather or wind.
He said he has since learned that Mt. Shasta was closed to
climbers on Saturday, but the climbers had been on a remote side of the
mountain since Thursday night and did not hear of the closure.
Thomas said they camped at 5,000 feet at the trailhead on Thursday
night and took to the trail, each with a 50-pound pack, at around 5 a.m.
Friday morning on snowshoes.
They made camp at 9,800 feet and at that point, Thomas said,
neither showed any signs of altitude sickness.
On Saturday, they decided to head to the summit because the wind
was not too extreme, according to his anemometer, and Thomas said conditions
appeared safe. He later learned that the worst of the wind had been blocked
by other parts of the mountain.
Thomas said that when the two reached the ridge at the summit,
which is at nearly 14,200 feet, according to the Mt. Shasta travel center Web
site, the winds were strong enough to make it impossible to stand. Because it
was close to the end of the day, the two decided to spend the night near the
summit at a protected site and descend at first light.
They dug a shelter and Thomas said they talked throughout the
night to check for signs of hypothermia or altitude sickness and found none.
The next morning, winds had decreased and skies had cleared, but when they
started their descent Bennett began experiencing symptoms of what Thomas
described as acute high altitude sickness, including blindness and extreme
He said Bennett's condition deteriorated quickly as winds worsened
and soon couldn't walk. Thomas brought Bennett back to the protected area
where they had camped and called 9-1-1 for search and rescue, but he was
barely able to get out the call before the phone failed due to the cold.
Thomas felt a storm approaching and dug a snow cave then moved
Bennett, who was no longer responsive. Thomas said he attempted CPR but was
unable to revive his friend.
When he was certain there was nothing more that he could do,
Thomas said he warmed up the phone enough to make another call to rescuers
and decided to leave before worsening weather conditions prevented him from
Both Thomas and the Bennett family say they would like to express
their sincere appreciation to everyone who participated in the rescue
They have asked those who feel the need to express their
condolences through a donation to give it to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's
Office Search and Rescue Fund at 305 Butte St., Yreka, CA, 96097.