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The original item was published from 2/19/2013 9:16:18 AM to 3/17/2013 12:05:00 AM.

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Sheriff's Office

Posted on: February 19, 2013

[ARCHIVED] Two Hikers Rescued from Humphreys Peak

Flagstaff, AZ - The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue assisted by Arizona Snowbowl and the Arizona Department of Public Safety Ranger helicopter rescued two hikers who had become stranded on Humphreys Peak at 11,750 feet Sunday night.

The Northern Arizona Regional 911 Center received a 911 call at 4:28 PM Sunday February 17th from two hikers who had become stranded on Humphreys Peak. 19 year old Nicholas Brown and 21 year old Christopher Cuellar, both students at Northern Arizona University had started their hike around 9:00 AM at the Arizona Snowbowl and hiked to the summit of Humphreys Peak, reaching the summit around 3:00 PM. They reported that upon their descent, they encountered high winds. They intentionally left the Ridge Trail in an attempt to get out of the wind and felt they could take a short cut back to the Snowbowl. The two hikers had hiked down into an area known as the Allison Clay avalanche chute.

Brown and Cuellar did not have sufficient clothing or equipment for the hike and the conditions. They were wearing light clothing, had a cellular phone, some matches and a flashlight. When the two got down in the avalanche chute, they encountered deep snow and became disoriented. Brown and Cuellar were able to make cell phone contact with the 911 center.

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue began attempts to locate the hiker’s position. Due to concerns of impending nightfall and very cold temperatures, the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue helicopter from Kingman responded. The helicopter crew was able to get a location on the hikers just prior to nightfall, however due to steep terrain and winds, the helicopter could not land or assist the hikers at that point. Search and Rescue had prepared survival bags of warn clothing, sleeping bags and some food and water. The DPS helicopter crew was able to fly the survival bags back up the mountain and drop the bags for Brown and Cuellar. Temperatures at the time were around 16 degrees.

Search and Rescue crews responded to the San Francisco Peaks where Arizona Snowbowl employees assisted, using their snow cats to transport searchers and equipment up the mountain. Searchers made a mile and half traverse, reaching Brown and Cuellar around 10:30 PM at an elevation of 11,750 feet. Searchers were able to walk Brown and Cuellar back out to waiting Snowbowl snow cats.

A Guardian Medical ground ambulance was dispatched to access the hikers. The subjects were in fairly good medical condition and refused medical treatment.

The Sheriff’s Office would like to issue the following reminder. Backcountry winter travel on the San Francisco Peaks can be hazardous. Backcountry travelers need to be prepared with appropriate clothing, footwear, food, water, navigation equipment, avalanche shovel, avalanche beacon, and avalanche probe. Understanding the snow conditions can be critical for safety in the winter backcountry. Those accessing the backcountry from Snow Bowl or Snow Bowl Road when Snow Bowl is in operation need to have a free Kachina Peaks Winter Backcountry Permit which is available from the US Forest Service. Information about backcountry snow conditions and avalanche safety can be found at www.kachinapeaks.org.

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Media Contact: Gerry Blair, PIO Coconino County Sheriff's Office, 928-226-5089

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