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Flagstaff, AZ - On Saturday, January 12 at about 9:30 pm the Sheriff's Office responded to a report of an overdue hiker on the San Francisco Peaks. The hiker, a 53 year old male from Scottsdale, was reported overdue from a one day hike by his family. The initial information indicated that he was planning to hike into the Inner Basin and Lockett Meadow areas.
With the roads closed into Lockett Meadow, patrol deputies checked the bottom of the Lockett Meadow road but did not located the subject's vehicle. Deputies checked the trailheads at Arizona Snowbowl and located the subject's vehicle near the Kachina Trailhead. They checked the immediate area of where the vehicle was parked and did not locate the subject. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit responded.
Concern for the subject's safety was high due to the extremely cold temperatures. At the time of the search, the air temperature in the area was -1 degree Fahrenheit, with colder wind chill temperatures. It was believed that the subject did not have any winter hiking experience and may not have been properly equipped for hiking in cold and snowy conditions.
An Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue helicopter from Kingman, AZ responded and assisted with an aerial search. The helicopter crew used night vision goggles and a forward looking infrared camera. While the air search was being conducted, ground search teams were deployed in a Search and Rescue snow cat on Freidlein Prairie Road and on foot from the Kachina Trailhead as well as on an old jeep trail that leaves from the Arizona Snowbowl Mountain Shop.
At approximately 3:00 am a ground search team located the subject above the Kachina Trail approximately one half mile from the Kachina Trail parking area. The subject was lost and had wrapped himself in an emergency blanket and was preparing to spend the night. The subject was responsive but was very cold. Searchers assisted the subject in walking out to the trailhead where he was met by a Guardian Medical Transport ambulance for treatment and transport to the Flagstaff Medical Center.
Search and Rescue would like to remind hikers to always leave a detailed trip plan with a trusted person. If in the course of the trip the plans change, it is important to notify the people with whom the trip plan was left so that this information can be shared with search and rescue teams if necessary. In the winter, trails that are typically fairly easy to follow in the spring, summer, and fall are often covered in snow making following the trail difficult to impossible. It is critical to have the appropriate navigation equipment and knowledge of how to use that equipment. Other winter hiking gear such as snowshoes or skis should be used where there is deep snow. Hiking boots alone are usually not adequate in deep snow conditions for extended periods. Clothing made for especially for winter conditions should be worn. Hiking clothing or footwear that gets wet not only makes movement more difficult, it also can contribute to hypothermia and other cold related injuries or illness.
Contact: Gerry Blair, Public Information Officer, Coconino County Sheriff's Office, 928-226-5089