On November 12 at approximately 9:20am the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office received a call about an injured hiker above the Humphrey’s Saddle on the Humphrey’s Peak Trail. A party of three hikers from Flagstaff reported that they were hiking the trail when one slipped on some ice and sustained a shoulder injury. The hikers reported the injured person could not walk and requested a helicopter to pick them up. As Search and Rescue teams were responding, the Arizona Department of Public Safety Northern Air Rescue helicopter responded and visually located the hikers but was unable to assist with the rescue due to the high winds. The temperature on the ridge at 12,000 feet near where the hikers were located, was 17 degrees with winds of 56 miles per hour.
Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue and Guardian Medical Transport personnel were transported by Arizona Snowbowl Snow Cats to the Midway catwalk to access the Humphrey’s Peak Trail.
At approximately 12:30pm rescuers reached the hiking party and began to treat the injured hiker. The injured hiker’s arm was splinted and he was assisted in hiking down the trail. The Sheriff’s Office Snow Cat was used to transport the hikers and rescuers from the Midway Catwalk back to the Agassiz Lodge. The injured hiker refused additional medical care.
The hikers were identified as 24-year-old NAU student Salvatore Bonanno, 20-year-old Coconino Community College student Christian Matthew and 19-year-old Coconino Community College student Ethan Murray. The group had started the hike at 4:30 am. When interviewed after the rescue, the group told rescue personnel they had checked the weather and felt prepared for the hike. The hikers had minimal outer wear, clothing and gear for the conditions they faced.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind those recreating in the winter backcountry to be prepared for the conditions. Hikers on the San Francisco Peaks can involve encountering snow, ice, and windy conditions on the trail and especially above tree line. Appropriate clothing and equipment is necessary to recreate safely in these conditions. Cotton clothing should not be worn as when it gets wet it does not dry easily or quickly and can lead to hypothermia for the wearer. Instead, synthetic or wool clothing should be chosen. Appropriate footwear is also a necessity. In addition to quality hiking boots, crampons may be needed for hard packed and icy conditions. An ice axe may be needed to assist in travel on steep and icy slopes.