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Mount Shasta Tragedy

Tom Bennett Memorial Album

Photos of Tom Bennett


On Sunday, March 28th, 2010, Tom Bennett passed away due to a sudden and severe onset of HACE after spending the night with me near the summit of Mt Shasta.

The day before Tom passed away from HACE on Mt Shasta, he told me that he was planning on signing up to be a member on Summitpost as soon as we got back from our climb. He had only recently discovered this wonderful community and I know that he would have loved meeting all of the great people here.

Since Tom was never a member, he has no profile to be turned into a memorial, as has been done for other SP members who have since passed away. In lieu of this, I'm making a memorial album for Tom. You may have never met him, but I wish you had, as he left a lasting impression on everyone he met.

Tom's family is setting up a memorial site with photos of Tom, and his legacy will live on as his family in Canada and the CHAOS outdoor club at Berkeley intend to set up some memorial funds/services to help others climb safely in the mountains. They are also collecting donations for to the Siskiyou SAR. I will add relevant links and info to this album as things develop.

Right now all of the photos are of Tom on trips I took with him, but I'll try to add some from his earlier years climbing in British Columbia.

I have also put up a photo album of some of the photos that Tom and I both took on our last trip together on Mt Shasta.

Mt Shasta North Side - March 2010

[img:612631:aligncenter:medium:Tom Bennett]

Corrections to Premature Reporting

For context, many of the earlier news reports made up their own story, got facts wrong, and overgeneralized subtle yet important points, and I have since been correcting that misinformation for the sake of Tom's memory and the representation of mountaineering to the public. Some key points of correction are:

  • I called SAR for Tom's medical emergency (HACE), NOT because of the weather. This was NOT a weather-related accident. Weather complicated recovery efforts and nearly killed me on my late descent after staying so long with Tom, but it is a peripheral matter that early media reports seized on and extrapolated from to report a hypothesized story in lieu of accurate reporting. Weather caused us to make a strategic decision to stay on the summit until morning, but it did not trap us.
  • We climbed the mountain with all necessary permits that could apply for our approach. We had summit passes, but wilderness permits are not available for the northern approach in early season, but we did leave a detailed itinerary with reliable friends, who reported us overdue shortly after the time I had called SAR.
  • The mountain was 'closed' for climbing after we were on it.(To the extent that it could be. The mountain is never closed.)
  • The hazard weather warning and report of the weather being from a storm system came about after we were on the mountain (as far as I recall seeing from the forecasts when we left Thursday).
  • SAR did not rescue me from the mountain - after down climbing the mountain I managed to make contact again and traveled to a meetup point where they already had snowmobiles available for an easy pickup. I am pointing this out to illustrate that despite the treacherous weather conditions, I made it out unassisted and I know Tom would have as well. SAR still did a lot for me to help me recover from the ordeal, took on risk in an attempt to reach us, and I can never repay them for what they did to bring Tom down.
  • We were fully prepared for the climb and would have never needed to call SAR if Tom hadn't developed HACE.


Although the aftermath from this experience was ugly, there were some people who showed great professionalism and sensitivity throughout this ordeal, and I am grateful for the help they have given me and the Bennett family.

  • Detective Ken Richardson (Led the SAR, helped us handle the media)
  • Eric White (Climbing Ranger/Avalanche Specialist)
  • Susan Gravenkamp (Press Release)
  • Justin Berton (SF Gate/Chronicle Article)
  • Dylan Darling (Record Searchlight Article)
  • Mike Slizewski (Managing Editor at Siskiyou Daily News)

Donations in Tom's memory can be made to Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue Fund at 305 Butte St., Yreka, CA 96097 for "Special Equipment Funds - In Memory of Tom Bennett".

Online condolences can be made to the Bennetts at

[img:625663:aligncenter:medium:Tom Bennett - August 28, 1983 to March 28, 2010]



Mt Shasta Forum Threads

News Articles That portray the events accurately

Memorial Sites

Trip Reports (Tom's climbs)

Other Photo Albums Not on Summitpost (Tom's CA outings)