‘Experienced’ Hiker Rescued Twice in 2-Days Attempting Winter Ascent of Arizona’s Highest Peak

CragBrains | ClimbingClimbing
Phillip vasto, rescued twice, Arizona
Phillip Vasto was rescued twice in two days, attempting the same peak. Credit: @vast_phil

An ‘experienced’ hiker from New York City had to be rescued twice in two days while hiking Humphreys Peak in Arizona last week.

Phillip Vasto, 28, of Brooklyn, was on a business trip and decided to climb the peak. At 12,637-feet, it is the highest peak in Arizona.

At 7 pm on March 2, he called 911 to say he was lost in the dark on the trail. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit found and rescued him, advised him to “wait a few more months before revisiting the trail,” and reminded him how dangerous it is to hike without proper equipment.

The trail up Humphrey Peak. Credit: @vast_phil

The trail runs 5.5 miles with steep, rocky terrain between the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort and Humphreys Peak.

At 5 pm the following day, Vasto called 911 after cutting his leg in a fall near a ridge on the trail. An Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter was sent to pick him up. Another hiker who had stopped to assist him said that it was “very apparent that he wasn’t prepared for the climate that he had gotten himself into.”

Yesterday was my second attempt at hiking Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona, with an elevation of 12,633 feet (3,851 m) and elevation gain of 3,395 ft (1,034 m). The first attempt ended prematurely because I started late. My second attempt ended with an elevation gain of 3,140 ft, only 200 ft short of reaching the summit (slide 8). As much as I had wanted to touch the peak, I had to turn around near the top.

With brutal, chilling winds blowing at >25 mph (see slide 5) and freezing temperatures (16°F – 30°F), Humphreys Peak is no joke in March. I highly advise NOT attempting Humphreys Peak in the winter. You can easily injure yourself and get hypothermia up there. I actually did mess up my leg a bit. It was arguably scarier and more dangerous than Kilimanjaro at this time of year.

I’m not ashamed of turning back. After all, life isn’t worth losing for a cool Instagram picture. Part of being a hiker is realizing your own human limitations and respecting the mountain and the climate. I’ll be back when there is much less snow. And I’m proud of as far as I made it, and happy I made some hiking friends along the way.

– Phillip Vasto wrote on Instagram

Vasto was “provided with preventative search and rescue education about the conditions on the trail and the approaching winter storm and encouraged not to attempt the hike again,” a Sheriff’s Office statement said.

The planned route. Credit: @vast_phil

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9 thoughts on “‘Experienced’ Hiker Rescued Twice in 2-Days Attempting Winter Ascent of Arizona’s Highest Peak

  1. There are many qualfied climbers/mountaineers who live on the east coast. But what % of the population would you trust to belay your ass?? Also 2 SAR calls ? How dangerous for those people likely volunteer.

  2. Dear J, Don’t belittle the east, C’mon back, I’ll take you into places in the Presidentials that will soil your pants. Being stupid and unprepared is not relegated to a geo-location. Oh yeah, we also have an ocean where you can learn some humility and empathy.

  3. No, please. No more begging to compensate for one’s own unpreparedness. It cheapens that platform!

  4. Looks like someone made some nice turns from near the summit. This kid needs to set up a GoFundMe so he can buy a clue.

  5. We have “experienced” climbers die all the time on Mt. Washington (NH) despite prolific cautionary signs.

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