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Best Mountain Rescue Phoenix 2008 - Superstition Mountains, March 2008

It's inevitable that a few people end up dead or seriously hurt each year in the Valley's semi-wild mountain parks, given the crowds those parks attract when the weather's nice. Fortunately, we have volunteer groups like Superstition Search and Rescue, or its larger cousin, the Central Arizona Mountain Rescue, to keep the body count as low as possible.

Last spring, the Superstition team, affiliated with the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, showed off its skills in a dramatic cliff-side rescue on the face of the Flatiron, a prominent prow of rock on the west side of the Superstition Mountains.

TV and newspaper reports made it difficult to know exactly what went wrong. Somehow, after hiking up the steep Siphon Draw Gully trail, Valley newcomer Emily Decker and her boyfriend, Texas resident John Wilkinson, both in their 20s, had found themselves where they should never have been: perched on a near-vertical face of the Flatiron. Wilkinson had fallen 80 feet and was left balancing on a ledge, bruises and cuts all over his body. He had bashed his face so hard, according to reports, that he lost seven teeth. Decker was stranded on another ledge above him, too terrified to move.

With the help of a helicopter, on loan from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, team members lowered a 600-foot rope and plucked the pair safely from the cliff face in a risky effort that took nearly 12 hours and ended just before midnight.

A quote from Decker, in the East Valley Tribune, reveals the underlying problem that leads to most mountain rescues: "We just had no idea of the danger that we were getting into."

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3 comments
Candice
Candice

Wow. Pretty cool, you guys. I was on this rescue (member of SSAR) Both folks are lucky to be alive, and are really nice people. They were looking for a short cut to the top of the Flat Iron by climbing up the no-name draw immediately south of Siphon Draw. It was sort of a bad idea.

Just a little more info. After falling 80 ft or more, John called 911 when he regained consciousness. He was shorthauled out from the bottom of the cliff, after DPS ferried us as close to his location as possible. No joke: the DPS helo crews are the best in the country if not the world. A second team climbed for a few hours to get above Emily and to a safe anchor so a rescuer could safely rappel to her, attach her to the rescuers harness, and then rappel to the ground. There are pictures and sort of a story in an English "lad rag" called Nuts magazine. Weird how this stuff gets picked up overseas.

Candice
Candice

Wow. Pretty cool, you guys. I was on this rescue (member of SSAR) Both folks are lucky to be alive, and are really nice people. They were looking for a short cut to the top of the Flat Iron by climbing up the no-name draw immediately south of Siphon Draw. It was sort of a bad idea.

Just a little more info. After falling 80 ft or more, John called 911 when he regained consciousness. He was shorthauled out from the bottom of the cliff, after DPS ferried us as close to his location as possible. No joke: the DPS helo crews are the best in the country if not the world. A second team climbed for a few hours to get above Emily and to a safe anchor so a rescuer could safely rappel to her, attach her to the rescuers harness, and then rappel to the ground. There are pictures and sort of a story in an English "lad rag" called Nuts magazine. Weird how this stuff gets picked up overseas.

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