Stories of Hiking Mishaps

Hiking amongst the red rocks is fun, peaceful, exhilarating, and inspirational. It can also be dangerous. Do not stray from the marked trail. The following stories of rescue and recovery have one thing in common. These hikers left the marked trail. Stay on the trail for your enjoyment and safety.


Hiker rescued from Sedona's Lizard Head Rock Ledge


SEDONA, AZ --About 1:30 p.m. Friday, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office received a report of a stranded climber in the area of Lizard Head Rock off of Dry Creek Road, Sedona. 

A Forest Patrol deputy arrived in the area and notified the Verde Search and Rescue Posse "Hasty Team" to assist in locating the man. A friend of the climber directed the team to a ledge where the 25-year-old man from Sedona was stranded.

Rescue personnel determined the climber was on a ledge with a landing area of only 3-by-8 feet, 30 feet above the nearest ground, and 70 feet below any safe access point. As a result, the Sheriff's Response Team Back County Unit was called to perform a high-angle rope rescue. 

If that wasn't tough enough, the unstable nature of the rock face's sandstone composition above the climber, and lack of suitable anchor points for the rope system, they asked the Sedona Fire Department's Technical Rescue Team to help. 

Once a mechanical anchor system was established utilizing bolts driven into the rock, the rescue of the stranded climber the rescue team could rappel personnel to the ledge. 

Then the stranded climber was secured and the rescue team was able to safely rappel him to ground level just before midnight. The climber had been stranded for more than 9 hours on the ledge. He was not injured but he was not appropriately dressed or equipped for the type of activity either.

The man had biked to the area alone and decided to access a ledge by climbing onto a rock formation before realizing he was not equipped to get back off. 

He had used a cell phone to text a friend about the predicament, and the friend contacted the Sheriff's Office to get a rescue.

Injured hiker rescued on Bell Trail

10/27/09 BEAVER CREEK, AZ -- Montezuma-Rimrock Fire crews were called to Bell Trail late Monday morning. The trail starts from the Beaver Creek Ranger Station area but becomes rapidly rugged when it drops into the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness. 

When the call came in to the rescue crew, the information was sketchy and a couple of teams were sent to search for the hiker with the help of Sedona Fire District. A DPS Ranger helicopter was also dispatched from Flagstaff to help in the search. 

A crewmember, standing on a high perch, spotted the 31-year-old Arizona man on the opposite side of the canyon off the trail. The man had a badly injured leg and was weak and disoriented.

Because of the extent of the injury and the difficult terrain, the man was extracted with a "short haul," suspended from the helicopter using a long line to a waiting Sedona ambulance. 

The hiker was treated at Sedona Medical Center and released later that night.


Injured hiker rescued by Helicopter

3/25/10 SEDONA, AZ -- An Oregon man had to be rescued by a helicopter after he became stranded on top of a rock spire near Sedona.


At approximately 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call from a man stranded on top of a rock spire in the Cathedral Rock formation outside of Sedona. Riad Edwards, 21, of Klackamas, Ore., said he and his dog had been hiking on Cathedral Rock when he decided to climb a sandstone spire.


Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said Edwards tied his dog to a tree then climbed hand over hand up a crevice in the rock, which allowed him to reach the top of the spire. Once there, Edwards was unable to safely return from the top of the spire and called for assistance.


It was eventually determined that a ground team could not reach Edwards and a technical rescue was required. An Arizona Department of Public Safety Ranger helicopter was called in for an air rescue.


D'Evelyn said the Ranger pilot was able to maneuver the aircraft and pick up Edwards off the spire around 5 p.m. Edwards was transported to a nearby landing zone on Cathedral Rock and reunited with his dog. He was accompanied off the rock to his father, who was waiting for him.


Rescue personnel stress the importance of hiking with a companion and exercising common sense when attempting activities that could end in tragedy. This type of hike, which is basically a rock climb, requires some skill and planning prior to undertaking.


Hikers Found on West Fork Trail


1/29/11 SEDONA, AZ -- Two lost hikers from the Phoenix area were found by the Coconino County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue Unit (SAR) in Sedona's West Fork Canyon. The overdue hikers were located in the dark on the West Fork Trail area on Friday, January 28, 2011 at approximately 12:30 a.m. 
Late in the evening on Thursday, January 27th, the 911 Communications center of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office received a call from the Sedona Fire Department 911 Communications center regarding two lost hikers who had self reported via cell phone. 
 The Phoenix-area residents had apparently been hiking in the West Fork Canyon area and told Communications personnel that they thought they were somewhere near the Cave Springs Campground.  The hikers told the dispatcher that while hiking they became disoriented and could not find their way out.  Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue teams responded to the West Fork parking lot in Oak Creek Canyon.  There they located the hiker’s vehicle.  

Additional investigation indicated that the hiker’s cell phone tower activation placed them north of the Willard Springs cell phone tower and somewhere approximately five miles north of the West Fork parking lot at the time of their original call.  Several phone calls were made in an attempt to locate the subjects via cell phone but were unsuccessful. SAR personnel were deployed from the West Fork trailhead parking lot and located the subjects as they were walking out.  The two Phoenix-area residents were escorted to their vehicle.  There were no reports of injury or any need for medical assistance.

Vagabonding Lulu's hiking tips: Always carry enough food and water for an overnight, even if you are planning a simple day-hike. You never know when an injury or miscalculation could keep you in the woods overnight. I always carry a space blanket in the bottom of my day pack for just such an unexpected journey. In Sedona's Red Rock Country it is important to be alert and sharpen your trail-following skills. At the bottom of canyons, it is easy to lose the trail along the waterways. Never go far off trail. If you can't find the trail, go back to where you know you were on the trail and start looking again. On the tops of canyon walls, an off-trail excursion could mean a deathly fall.


Three Canadian Hikers Found

5/23/11  SEDONA, AZ -- Six adult hikers who traveled from Quebec, Canada to do an “exchange hike in Sedona were finally reunited in the wee hours of this morning after three were lost overnight. Yesterday, three of the hikers began their journey at Chapel of the Holy Cross and hiked north. The other three hikers began at the Broken Arrow Trailhead and headed south. The two hiking parties met up at Chicken Point and exchanged vehicle keys which allowed each hiking party to drive the vehicle parked at their destination.

Information gathered from witnesses and victims revealed that the party hiking from south to north left the trail shortly after departing Chicken Point. Members of the north-bound group quickly became disoriented, started heading east and became lost. The hikers in this group did not intend nor were they prepared for an overnight hike. The south-bound group of hikers safely reached their intended destination which was the Chapel of the Holy Cross. One of the members of this group that called to report the other party was overdue and missing.

Eleven members of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue unit conducted an intensive ground search with some of the searchers on foot while others operated quads. They conducted audible search techniques by shouting to any potential victims and sounding their vehicle horns and sirens; however, they received no response. The search coordinator requested the assistance of a Phoenix, AZ-based DPS Air Rescue helicopter and crew.

Upon arriving in Northern Arizona, the helicopter crew members quickly spotted the flames of a campfire in the designated search area. Crew members determined that the lost hikers appeared to be uninjured and in good condition so they elected not to land at the hikers' location. Crew members obtained GPS coordinates and relayed them to ground searchers who reached the victims at about 5:15 a.m. this morning.

According to rescuers, all three victims were in good condition and did not require medical attention. Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit members escorted the three hikers to their waiting vehicle at Broken Arrow Trailhead.


Three Hikers Found in Sycamore Canyon


5/25/11  SEDONA, AZ -- Three twenty-year old male hikers were rescued last night from Sycamore Canyon near Sedona, AZ. One of the hikers was experiencing symptoms of heat-related illness when they sent word via text messaging that they were lost. Although hiking in a remote area without voice communications available on their cell phones, one of the victims was able to send text messages to a family member. The family member called the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office to report the incident shortly before 6p.m. last night.

Due to the time and shortage of daylight the Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue  (SAR) Coordinator elected to call the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue Helicopter stationed in Flagstaff. The SAR coordinator asked air crew members to launch and to prepare for a rescue and transport.

Once airborne, Air Rescue Crew members quickly spotted the lost hiking party in Sycamore Canyon between Dorsey Springs and Babe’s Hole Springs. Due to the dark conditions there was not enough time to perform a short haul rescue however air crew members lowered a survival kit containing food, water and a two-way portable radio to the victims.

Air Rescue Crew members provided ground searchers with GPS coordinates of the victims’ location. A total of eight Coconino County Sheriff’s SAR volunteers were on scene. A team of four volunteers was assigned to hike to the victims at about 9:20 pm. While the ground rescuers made their way to the victims, one member of the lost hiking party stayed in radio contact with the Search Coordinator. This allowed him to update the coordinator on the current condition of the ill person. It also allowed the Search Coordinator to communicate the rescue team’s progress to the victims.

The rescue team reached the victims at approximately 10:20 pm and performed a medical assessment on each of the three hikers. The victims were given food, water and warm clothing. Rescuers assisted them in hiking to the Incident Command Post located at Kelsey Springs arriving at about 11:45 pm. The victims, one from Flagstaff, one from Chandler and one from Tempe, AZ declined any further medical care and followed a Sheriff’s Office vehicle to the highway.

This is the second SAR incident near Sedona this week and at least the third rescue from Sycamore Canyon in the past nine months.


Hiker Dies After Fall


12/29/11 Sedona AZ -- On December 27, 2011, just before 4 P.M., Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers received a call from the mother of a 21-year-old hiker stranded on a ledge near Castle Rock. The hiker, identified as Mahdi Harrizi, was vacationing with family at the Red Agave Inn on Canyon Circle Drive in Sedona. They had traveled from their hometown in New York.

Harrizi had taken a trail from the back of the resort, eventually climbing onto a ledge and becoming stranded. He called his mom from a cell phone to advise her of the predicament and she was able to make brief eye contact with him from ground level at that time. She then called YCSO to request assistance for her son. Deputies arrived and began efforts to locate Harrizi as the sun was setting. Unfortunately, attempts to reach him by cell phone were unsuccessful. The particular cell phone carrier he used had a difficult time providing GPS coordinates due to the remote location. Harrizi was wearing dark clothing and had no light source except his cell phone.


Hiker Rescued After Fall


9/11/12  SEDONA, AZ County Search and Rescue volunteers have rescued a Nevada man who was injured in a fall during a weekend hike.

Coconino County Sheriffs officials say 58-year-old Jim Flanigan, of Las Vegas, was rescued from Oak Creek Canyon about 2:30 p.m. Monday. Flanigans wife called the sheriffs office Sunday night saying he was overdue from returning from his two-day solo hike on the West Fork trail.

A helicopter crew spotted Flanigan, who fell about 20 feet and suffered various injuries including a knee ailment that prevented him from hiking out. Authorities say he was taken to Flagstaff Medical Center for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Two Hikers Rescued


12/7/12  SEDONA, AZ -- Two Arizona hikers were rescued from a less than 2-square-foot surface while hiking Sterling Trail in Oak Creek Canyon.

Coconino County Sheriff's Office said a 25-year-old Cottonwood man called police for help Wednesday afternoon.

The caller and a 20-year-old Sedona woman were hiking near Vulture Arch when they got stranded on a rocky outcrop, approximately 30 feet below the top of the canyon and approximately 50 feet above the canyon floor, according to CCSO.

CCSO said their technical rescue team found steep angles and unstable sandstone surfaces that made it difficult to anchor safety lines. Eventually, a rescuer attached to a safety line secured to a tree at the top of the canyon and was able to reach the victims. The rescue took approximately 14 hours.

One of the victims collapsed from fatigue. Both victims were treated and released.


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Last Updated May 9, 2015
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