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Old 08-17-2021, 12:12 PM   #1
AdirondackAir82
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Mount Marcy's Secrets

Steven Paul Thomas went missing on April 12, 1976 after walking away from the Hopkins lean-to about a mile from the summit.
Here are a few article links on the case:

https://www.reddit.com/r/UnresolvedM..._group_during/

https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs...003-story.html

http://www.adirondacklifemag.com/blo...steven-thomas/

I have hiked Mount Marcy and explored the old lean-to site. I lose sleep thinking about Steven's disappearance. I definitely have my own thoughts and theories about what happened that freezing April night.
I know Steven's brother Bob has searched more thoroughly than any searcher out there....but still come up with nothing.
Has Steven been forgotten? I hope not. The ban to camp above 4,000 feet has greatly hampered the ability to search for any clue. It takes four to five hours just to reach the old lean-to site from the trail head at the Adirondack Loj.
Does anyone remember or have different/new information on this old case?
Steven is still on the mountain, patiently waiting.
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Old 08-17-2021, 12:38 PM   #2
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Thomas is not the only one lost on Marcy. Young Wesley Wamsganz went up there for unknown reasons the day before Thanksgiving in 2010. I spent 3 days on the search with DEC Rangers. We know he was there because the Carhart jacket he was know to have been wearing was found on the trail near Avalanche Pass. Nothing else was ever found. There are a number of other still open unsolved missing person cases throughout the Adirondacks.
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Old 08-17-2021, 12:48 PM   #3
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If he perished in the woods, I think it's fairly unlikely that there is much left of the body at this point. Bones don't last forever in the woods- in particular, they are rife with some rare but important nutrients that wild animals struggle to find elsewhere. I've stumbled across a number of deer and moose skeletons over the years where the active gnawing of the bones by rodents was plainly obvious.

And bones can and do break down on their own through weathering. According to this website, in the right conditions an entire skeleton can dissolve in as little as 20 years. While I very much doubt that the higher elevations of the Adirondack High Peaks come anywhere close to the "right conditions" to facilitate such a rapid break down of bone, it remains that bones don't last forever even in the absence of animal consumption.

If he had any gear with him that was metal perhaps (such as an external frame pack), that would much more likely have survived to today. But based on the reports it sounds like he had very little gear with him when he walked away from the lean-to site.
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Old 08-17-2021, 05:51 PM   #4
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If you are a civilian like myself, not being able to camp above 4,000 feet makes it pretty much impossible to do a thorough search for anyone who has went missing.
Where is Avalanche Pass in relation to Marcy's summit?
I would hope that clothing, his knife, and even parts of the bright yellow rain slicker Thomas was wearing might still be out there...if not skeletal remains.
Is there too much political tape to wade through to try and start a new search?
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Old 08-17-2021, 06:48 PM   #5
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Is there too much political tape to wade through to try and start a new search?
More so the resources just don't exist to justify an intensive, large-scaled search for someone who disappeared nearly 50 years ago. The Adirondacks see multiple search and rescue incidents every week... to start a new search for Thomas would take resources away from those rescues. It has nothing to do with politics.

It's not at all like the state doesn't care. It's simply the unfortunate reality of the situation... like Wldrns says, there's a number of folks that have gone missing across the Adirondack Park over the years that have never been found. Douglas Legg, Irene Horne, Tom Messick, George Bombardier, Thomas Carleton, George LaForest and Jack Coloney, to name some of the more well known cases. Nearly all were the subject of incredibly intensive searches, without result. Given the ensuing decades that have passed since most of the above have disappeared, it's extremely unlikely in any of these cases that a new search would turn up anything that the initial search missed.

If you're serious about trying to do something to honor Thomas' memory, I'd suggest that your efforts might be better directed elsewhere. Education especially is badly needed, particularly for visitors to the High Peaks. The number of hikers who enter the High Peaks backcountry astonishingly unprepared every single weekend is utterly astounding. There is a desperate need for trailhead stewards to provide education- and fortunately, opportunities to do this exist through the Adirondack Mountain Club. You'd be far more likely to prevent someone else from suffering the same fate at Thomas than you would be to find any clue that leads to the discovery of Thomas' whereabouts.
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Old 08-17-2021, 08:01 PM   #6
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I suppose "politics" was not the right term. I just figure if you could actually camp at the old lean-to site in the nicer months, then you might have a legitimate chance at an actual search for where Steven might be.

This might sound dumb, but would anyone be interested in staring an Adirondack search "cold case" unit?
Lets go find those that are missing in the ADKs...hikers, plane crashes, etc...
I am 5hrs from the heart of the High Peaks region and have a great schedule that allows me four days off a week...I can be there for searches.
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Old 08-17-2021, 08:42 PM   #7
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I think it would be hard to carve out an exception to allow "searchers" to camp in an area and "non-searchers" not to, except in the case of an active search for a missing person that is being run by DEC and its allied groups. Otherwise it could just devolve into people saying they were going to search when they really just wanted to camp in a no camping area.
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Old 08-17-2021, 08:56 PM   #8
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When the DEC (or other official law enforcement agency) places a search incident into the classification of "limited continuing operations", it encourages trained search teams in what they would otherwise do as routine training activities, to conduct such training in the region of the lost person incident. in the hopes that something previously overlooked might turn up.

Conducting an unofficial search operation by the untrained may in fact do more harm than good. During actual law enforcement agency led officially organized and monitored search indicents, care is taken with untrained civilian volunteers to carefully show them the rules and practices of effective search techniques, how and where to look, to not in any way contaminate a search area, to be properly equipped and clothed, what to do when any clues or evidence is found (if it is "relevant" or even if it is not). Everything and the area of search is carefully documented in standardized format. At the end of the day, officials who know what they are doing study what was accomplished so far and overnight put together the search plan and obtain resources for the next day's activities.

In the case of the deceased (no matter how old), it is always at least initially treated as a possible crime scene, until it is determined that it is not. I don't think the untrained masses want to get involved in that.
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Old 08-18-2021, 07:42 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by AdirondackAir82 View Post
I have hiked Mount Marcy and explored the old lean-to site. I lose sleep thinking about Steven's disappearance. I definitely have my own thoughts and theories about what happened that freezing April night.
If you don't mind sharing, what do you think happened to him? If it's not something you want to discuss I understand that too. Regardless, good luck in finding answers
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Old 08-18-2021, 11:31 AM   #10
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While I do not want to encourage anyone to perform a potentially dangerous / destructive amateur search, I will say that there are more than one designated campsites that are significantly closer to the Marcy summit than the Loj trailhead. If you are not aware of these, then you need to do more research.
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Old 08-18-2021, 12:46 PM   #11
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If you don't mind sharing, what do you think happened to him? If it's not something you want to discuss I understand that too. Regardless, good luck in finding answers
I am definitely a supporter of Occam's Razor, which basically states that the simplest explanation usually holds true.
When I hiked the mountain I noted a few rocky outcroppings between the old lean-to site and the final push to the summit. These outcroppings give you a great view of the surrounding wilderness. It was snowy, icy, and windy that evening...I believe that Stephan is closer to the lean-to than anyone has previously thought.
I believe he may have walked out on to one of these outcroppings to admire the view, slipped...went over the side, and became buried in snow...and that was it.
Have these areas been thoroughly searched? I would assume so.
But time and again people are found in areas that have been searched multiple times.
Just my thoughts...
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Old 08-18-2021, 01:03 PM   #12
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The DEC Rangers offer a one day "Basic Wildlands Search Course", available as a requirement (although most times unenforced) for SAR, fire, and EMS team members who may become involved with participating in DEC led SAR incidents. A more advanced course is "Management of Missing Person Incidents", rarely available but often taught in conjunction with the excellent training: "Lost Person Behavior"
https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Person-B...s%2C648&sr=8-1

LPB is a compilation and guiding procedure based on statistics from thousands of previous search incidents with results based on dozens of factors relating to the subject's individual personal category and other factors. While it is true that a statistic of one is not very relevant, many "cold" incidents have been solved by following the guidelines from observing the data types of the statistics.
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Old 08-18-2021, 04:47 PM   #13
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When the DEC (or other official law enforcement agency) places a search incident into the classification of "limited continuing operations", it encourages trained search teams in what they would otherwise do as routine training activities, to conduct such training in the region of the lost person incident. in the hopes that something previously overlooked might turn up.
At least that makes sense. If you are going to do practice for something, why not practice where you may actually find something that got overlooked.

After all, people not looking (like hunters in many areas) have found people before (since they are usually going in more obscure places), so there is always a chance that will happen with people doing practice as well.
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Old 08-19-2021, 09:42 AM   #14
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I have been looking into training with and joining an Adirondack SAR organization such as Adirondack Mountain Rescue or Lower Adirondack Search and Rescue.

I don't want anyone in here to think I would just haphazardly go trapezing around the mountain, that is not the case...although I can see how my earlier posts may have come across that way.

I like the idea of practicing in an area where something may have been overlooked; what better way to obtain training and experience, and maybe even solve a cold case along the way.

Stephen went missing 45 years ago, so I can see how his case could unfortunately be long forgotten...I hope to re-kindle interested in what happened all those years ago; it's truly fascinating.

Last edited by AdirondackAir82; 08-20-2021 at 10:51 AM.. Reason: grammer
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Old 08-19-2021, 09:48 AM   #15
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I am sure that AMR, LASAR, or any other SAR team organization would welcome any new members.
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