Three separate pleas for help sent
search and rescue teams scrambling late Friday
All three rescues ended successfully,
but the flurry taxed the combined resources of the the
Gila County Sheriff’s Office, Tonto Rim Search and
Rescue (TRSAR) and the Mounted Posse, which sent teams
to Christopher Creek, the Mazatzal Wilderness and Fossil
TRSAR Commander Bill Pitterle reported
that all three rescues ended successfully.
Sergeant Terry Hudgens from the county
sheriff’s department headed up the search for a hiker
who went off trail in the Mazatzal Wilderness and feared
for his health.
Located deep in a canyon off of the
Barnhardt Trail, the hiker from Phoenix activated his
Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) alerting officials he
needed help. Officials had a difficult time isolating
the signal because the hiker ended up deep in a canyon
off of Sandy Saddle.
“PLB’s depend on a satellite to relay
a signal,” said Pitterle, “His signal was difficult to
locate we think because of the way it reflected off of
Originally, a helicopter was called
from Kingman, but officials rerouted it to help an
injured person in Box Canyon located below Kohl’s Ranch
and the R Bar C Boy Scout camp. Instead, a helicopter
called in from Maricopa County located the hiker around
8 p.m. from the glow of his campfire.
Rescuers decided to wait until morning
to evacuate the man by helicopter because it was too
dangerous to insert a team, said Pitterle.
With the daylight, the helicopter made
a one-skid landing with full power and the lost, sick
and dehydrated hiker hopped aboard. Officials flew him
to a hospital in Phoenix.
In a second incident, the TRSAR
facilitated the rescue of a Phoenix man injured in a
15-foot-fall in Box Canyon, said Pitterle.
Visitors to the area enjoy the pools
surrounded by high cliffs that offer a chance for
“The hiker had fallen from 15 feet
onto his knee,” said Pitterle, “The word we got was it
A dozen TRSAR volunteers turned out at
4 p.m. and didn’t finish until about 8:30 p.m.
TRSAR prepared to rope rescue the
injured hiker, however, that proved unnecessary.
Officials discovered the hiker was located farther into
the canyon in an area that had wider walls. This enabled
the helicopter to find a place to land to evacuate the
man, said Pitterle.
Native Air then flew the man to a
In the third incident of the day, the
Mounted Posse rescued an injured hiker from just off the
Fossil Springs Trail, said Pitterle.
“Fossil Springs is well suited to the
Mounted Posse’s capabilities,” said Pitterle, “if we can
ascertain if they can come out on horseback.”
The Fossil Springs Trail runs down to
the spring source of Fossil Creek. The 7.8-mile trail
includes a daunting elevation gain of 1,391 feet, which
makes for a tough hike at the end of a long day.
When down at the creek, hikers often
injure themselves. Some jump into deep pools from steep
rock cliffs, but underestimate the underwater hazards.
The trail has numerous rocks and water
damage ruts, which can easily twist an ankle.
The hiker had sprained his ankle and
needed a horseback rescue.