FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA (AP) – A New York City man who needed to be rescued twice on consecutive days while hiking in a northern Arizona mountain range is urging others to pay more attention to the weather than he did.
“Warning: Unless you are an experienced alpine mountaineer, DO NOT attempt Humphreys Peak in the winter. There is so much snow that it’s difficult to follow the trail and very easy to fall off of it. Moreover, the wind is absolutely brutal,” Phillip Vasto said in an online post.
The 28-year-old Brooklyn man first called 911 a few weeks ago at about 7pm to say he got lost while hiking on Humphreys Trail in the San Francisco Peaks overlooking Flagstaff, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
The statement didn’t identify Vasto by name but he spoke to the Arizona Daily Sun, telling the newspaper in a story published recently that he was an experienced hiker but had underestimated the difficult conditions.
“I was thinking if I start early in the morning, I’ll have all the time in the world to reach the summit,” Vasto said of his second attempt.
The trail runs through some 8.9 kilometres of steep, rocky terrain between the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort and Humphreys Peak, the state’s highest point with an elevation of 3,851 metres.
During the first rescue, tracked vehicles from the ski resort that travel on snow drove Vasto off the mountain and he declined medical attention.
But at 5pm the next day, Vasto called 911 to say he needed help after injuring himself in a fall near a ridge on the Humphreys Trail.
An Arizona Department of Public Safety rescue helicopter was sent to pick up Vasto and another hiker who had stopped to help him.
Vasto was “provided with preventative search and rescue education about the conditions on the trail and the approaching winter storm and encouraged to not attempt the hike again”, the Sheriff’s Office statement said.
The other hiker who stopped to help Vasto, Phillip Wyatt, said it was “very apparent that he wasn’t prepared for the climate that he had gotten himself into”.
Wyatt decided to stay with Vasto and provided his number to the search and rescue team so that they could make contact in the likely scenario that Vasto’s phone ran out of battery life because he had been using it to check his route on a trail locater app.
“I really respect Phil’s perseverance,” Wyatt told the Daily Sun. “I hope that he’s able to make it to the top sometime.”