Rescue squad finds lost hikers

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Dschur
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Rescue squad finds lost hikers

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Rescue squad finds lost hikers
By Alexis Bechman

April 3, 2009

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The Hells Gate Trail lived up to its name this weekend for a pair of hikers who got so lost, they stumbled around the Tonto National Forest for three days until searchers finally located them in a canyon Monday afternoon.

Two men in their 20s from the Valley planned to hike the strenuous 11-mile Hells Gate Trail, which starts a half mile south of Little Green Valley, and return by Sunday afternoon, said Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Commander Bill Pitterle.

Their plans for a nice romp through the forest quickly fell off track when they lost the trail early on in the hike, shortly after leaving their vehicle at the trailhead Friday night.

“They got off the trail fairly quickly, but they tried to go to Hells Gate anyway,” Pitterle said. “They went into a canyon their map said would take them there, and like most canyons in this area, it turned into a cliff, so they had to backtrack.”

The pair spent the rest of the weekend and part of Monday traversing the forest, searching for the ridge. By Sunday, when they had not returned as planned, family members contacted the sheriff’s office.

Tonto Rim Search and Rescue was called out Monday morning and rescuers responded with four quads, which began searching several old jeep roads that the trail follows. Searchers were unable to find any of the men’s tracks so a hiking team was brought in that began searching some of the areas canyons.

“We have had a number of searches in that area before with people missing a turn on the trail,” Pitterle said.

By afternoon, the men had hiked up high enough to get a cell signal and were able to call one of their fathers and give him their GPS coordinates.

“If they had not called, we would have had to call in a helicopter because they were three-quarters of a mile from the nearest trail,” he said.

The men were escorted the rest of the way down the trail. Neither was injured, but both reported being tired, Pitterle said.
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Dawn
--On the loose to climb a mountain, on the loose where I am free. On the loose to live my life the way I think my life should be...For we only have a moment and a whole world yet to see...I'll be looking for tomorrow on the loose. ---unknown--
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JoelHazelton
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by JoelHazelton »

Wow, crazy. I feel for them. I've been in that situation before but was lucky enough to stumble upon the trail again. Keyword lucky. I guess this shows the importance of constantly watching the trail and backtracking to where you know there's trail the second you aren't on it anymore. Not to mention carrying a 7.5 topo, compass and gps...
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Grasshopper
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by Grasshopper »

azpride wrote:Not to mention carrying a 7.5 topo, compass and gps...
..and understanding how to use all three.. doesn't sound like their GPS was of much benefit leading them out, but it should have been..
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big_load
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by big_load »

Grasshopper wrote: doesn't sound like their GPS was of much benefit leading them out, but it should have been..
I wonder if their only GPS was via cell phone. If they had a standalone GPS that whole time, somebody should drop them back off where they were found and wish them luck. OK, maybe that's too harsh. Hopefully these two hikers learned their lesson from this ordeal, and perhaps some others did, too.
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by mttgilbert »

I wonder where they lost the trail. That beginning section basically follows a road. There are a couple small off-shoots that look like they were made by quads but it seems unlikely that they would have lost the road and the trail after that is (was) pretty clearly defined. I wonder if this wasn't more of a case of "taking a shortcut" than actually losing a trail - not judging, I've done that too, I've just been lucky and haven't had to have someone come find me.
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dysfunction
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by dysfunction »

Sure, but having a map and knowing how to triangulate their position and knowing how to reference their GPS based position to that map would have gone a long, long way as well.
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Jeffshadows
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by Jeffshadows »

It sounds like they panicked. No fault there, it can be a pretty frightening situation.
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dysfunction
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by dysfunction »

No, not at all, been there a few times but panic does tend to stop clear thinking. Very hard to break out of that cycle too once you're in it.
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chumley
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by chumley »

Well, it says they had a map and they had some kind of GPS device. Panic certainly plays a role, but common sense and logic can also help too. In this case, it seems that they did the things that seem logical to me ... backtrack and try to find the trail and/or the ridge they started on. Without a good topo map and possibly the help of a GPS, and not finding the original ridge, I think I would have just hiked uphill to the north. That's the direction of roads, trails, or some civilization. Its rough country there, and very slow going off trail, but if you're in good health, its possible to get out of the situation on your own. But it sounds like they made the correct decision once they realized they were in trouble and got to a point where they could call for assistance.
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JoelHazelton
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by JoelHazelton »

Once they realized they were off-trail, they decided to try and get to Hells Gate anyway via a different canyon. I think that's where they went wrong.

I found myself in that situation once in the middle of the Blue Range. It was a miracle that we managed to find a trail again. On the Grant Creek trail (I think) we lost the trail a little past Moonshine Park. We followed the trail up a ridge, and then ended up following a small drainage we thought was a trail off the ridge. When it petered out, rather than backtracking, we headed straight down the side of the hill where I thought the trail would go (based off my wilderness map, which definitely wasn't a 7.5 minute topo). Of course we were wrong, and ended up eventually finding a trail about a half hour later at the bottom of a canyon. After much rejoicing, we followed this trail in what we figured would be the right direction until my hiking partner spotted a tall, broken reed he recognized from earlier. As it turns out, we had managed to wander back to a portion of trail we had hiked a couple hours earlier, nowhere near where we should have been. Looking back, I realize we were completely disoriented not even a minute after losing the trail. It's amazing how quickly that happens, and in a place as remote as the Blue, it can turn really bad. I consider myself REALLY REALLY lucky that this situation didn't turn out worse, cause had we not happened upon that part of the trail we had hiked earlier, who know where we would have ended up. I don't imagine there would have been any tall hills with reception way out there.
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big_load
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by big_load »

Every hiker should be willing and able to backtrack. Willing is just as important as able. Anybody that won't backtrack to a known location is potentially marching toward oblivion.
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Jim_H
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by Jim_H »

big_load wrote: Anybody that won't backtrack... is potentially marching toward oblivion.
We need to quit this political discussion, this is a hiking website!
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Jeffshadows
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by Jeffshadows »

jhodlof wrote:
big_load wrote: Anybody that won't backtrack... is potentially marching toward oblivion.
We need to quit this political discussion, this is a hiking website!
:sl:
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by Jeffshadows »

Back on thread...this could easily turn into a very ugly discussion about noob behavior in the backcountry. I have no idea if these guys are very experienced or skilled, so I won't cast aspersions. What I can say is that this case and others like it provide a great opportunity for education.
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by Jim_H »

Judging by the article they must be pretty new, or not very "skilled", if such a thing could be said about hikers. They lost the trail shortly after the start of the hike, so they probably don't hike very often. They clearly underestimated the difficulty of the terrain, so who knows if they had ever even been in the area.
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mttgilbert
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by mttgilbert »

That's exactly why I suggested that they might have been trying to take a shortcut. Having hiked that trail several times, I have a hard time believing that even a rank amateur could lose that road early on. Again, not judging the skill of the individuals involved, just wondering about what's being reported.
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by desert spirit »

matt gilbert wrote:That's exactly why I suggested that they might have been trying to take a shortcut. Having hiked that trail several times, I have a hard time believing that even a rank amateur could lose that road early on. Again, not judging the skill of the individuals involved, just wondering about what's being reported.
That's what I thought, too. If you honestly "lose" a trail, then it wasn't much of a trail to begin with, and you should probably turn around unless you're really, really familiar with the area.
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by Sredfield »

The only time I get lost is when I'm absolutely sure where I am.
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by Dschur »

Three more rescued from Hell’s Gate Trail
By Alexis Bechman

July 14, 2009
For the seventh time this year, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue volunteers were called out to the Hell’s Gate Trail for overdue hikers.

This time on Saturday, three men in their early 20s were rescued after running out of water on the technically challenging, eight-mile trail. In the past month, six adults were also rescued after running out of water.

The men, who left on Friday, had planned an overnight stay in the canyon, which is located 11 miles southeast of Payson.

On the second day of their hike, the men made it to the Hell’s Gate Wilderness boundary, about five miles in, when they realized they were extremely low on water.

“They decided, wisely, to hike back out,” said Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Commander Bill Pitterle.

On the way out, one of the men hiked ahead and was separated from the group. When he realized his friends were nowhere to be found, he turned around and hiked back down the trail looking for them, Pitterle said. Still unable to spot them, the man decided to hike out to the trailhead and wait. Several hours later, the man’s friends had still not returned so he called for help.

Around 2:40 p.m. the Gila County Sheriff’s Office received the call and contacted TRSAR volunteers.

When Pitterle and 10 other volunteers arrived at the trailhead, “we thought it would be relatively simple to find them because we figure they took a wrong turn,” he said.

Four quad teams scoured trails in the area for an hour, but found no sign of the men.

Half an hour later, one of the men came stumbling up to the trailhead extremely dehydrated.

He told rescuers he had left his friend further down the trail after he passed out.

Rescuers hydrated the man and then had him lead them to the last man missing, who was two miles south of the trailhead.

“We found him conscious but very confused and in bad shape,” Pitterle said. Paramedics with Hellsgate Fire Department administered an IV and transported the man to a hospital.

Pitterle said he did not know how much water the men were carrying.

According to the National Park Service, a hiker should carry and drink about a gallon (4 liters) of water per day. They also suggest drinking one-half to one quart of water each hour spent hiking in the heat.
Dawn
--On the loose to climb a mountain, on the loose where I am free. On the loose to live my life the way I think my life should be...For we only have a moment and a whole world yet to see...I'll be looking for tomorrow on the loose. ---unknown--
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Re: Rescue squad finds lost hikers

Post by big_load »

I'm glad they all got out. It's too bad they to be searched for. I wish more information was released about their preparation.
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