'Impressive' mountain rescue brought Milford man to safety

Stowe Mountain Rescue, with help from other agencies, rescued a Milford man from Mansfield Mountain in Vermont Sunday.

Theodore Chittem, 49, hadn’t been seen since Sunday, March 24, and by week’s end family and friends were quite worried about him. They knew he frequented Vermont and New Hampshire and was an avid outdoorsman, but since they’d had no contact with him they were concerned.

After several days, they alerted Milford police, who sent notices to area newspapers and other police departments seeking information about Chittem.

On Saturday, March 30, members of the Stowe Police Department in Vermont located Chittem’s vehicle at the base of Mansfield Mountain. The Stowe Police Department, Stowe Mountain Rescue Unit and Vermont State Police started searching the area, including several trails that lead from the base.

Mount Mansfield is the highest mountain in Vermont, with a summit that peaks at 4,395 feet  above sea level, according to an online source.

It is one of three spots in Vermont where true alpine tundra survives from the Ice Ages.

Neil Van Dyke, with Stowe Mountain Rescue, said his group learned that Chittem had made a phone call at approximately 9 p.m. Saturday and the cell phone company had provided coordinates placing him somewhere near the Long Trail on Mount Mansfield.

“Search teams were dispatched to the area, and one of the teams consisting of members of Stowe Mountain Rescue and the Vermont State Police Search and Rescue Team located Mr. Chittem at Taft Lodge, which is a shelter on the Long Trail approximately 1.7 miles from the trailhead on Route 108,” Van Dyke said.

Rescuers found the Milford man around 4 a.m.

Taft Lodge, a fairly primitive wooden structure, offers hikers shelter from the elements but little more. It is, after all, a trail lodge. It sits 3.4 miles from the base and takes several hours of hiking to reach, according to one hiker who posted information online.

“Just because you’re indoors doesn’t mean that you don’t have to hang your food,” one hiker warned on an online hiking site. “Mice with huge ears start scampering across the floor at dusk ... .”

Still, Taft Lodge is a popular place for overnight backpackers.

The weather on Mount Mansfield can be very different from the lower surrounding areas, another hiking site warns.

This past weekend, temperatures were in the 20s and there was still several feet of snow in the mountains, Van Dyke said.

Officials did not elaborate, but Chittem was reportedly suffering from a medical condition that prevented him from getting down the mountain without assistance.

Rescuers helped him from the lodge, and he was released to Stowe Emergency Medical Services at approximately 5:30 a.m.

Milford Police Spokesman Jeff Nielsen said he heard that the rescuers did an amazing job, and that Chittem is now “fine.”

“They did some really impressive stuff,” Nielsen said. “Where he was it was very rough terrain.”

Nielsen said rescuers used a snowmobile and a small truck designed to move on snow to rescue the Milford man.