For the seventh time this year, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue volunteers were called out to the Hell’s Gate Trail for overdue hikers.
This time on Saturday, three men in their early 20s were rescued after running out of water on the technically challenging, eight-mile trail. In the past month, six adults were also rescued after running out of water.
The men, who left on Friday, had planned an overnight stay in the canyon, which is located 11 miles southeast of Payson.
On the second day of their hike, the men made it to the Hell’s Gate Wilderness boundary, about five miles in, when they realized they were extremely low on water.
“They decided, wisely, to hike back out,” said Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Commander Bill Pitterle.
On the way out, one of the men hiked ahead and was separated from the group. When he realized his friends were nowhere to be found, he turned around and hiked back down the trail looking for them, Pitterle said. Still unable to spot them, the man decided to hike out to the trailhead and wait. Several hours later, the man’s friends had still not returned so he called for help.
Around 2:40 p.m. the Gila County Sheriff’s Office received the call and contacted TRSAR volunteers.
When Pitterle and 10 other volunteers arrived at the trailhead, “we thought it would be relatively simple to find them because we figure they took a wrong turn,” he said.
Four quad teams scoured trails in the area for an hour, but found no sign of the men.
Half an hour later, one of the men came stumbling up to the trailhead extremely dehydrated.
He told rescuers he had left his friend further down the trail after he passed out.
Rescuers hydrated the man and then had him lead them to the last man missing, who was two miles south of the trailhead.
“We found him conscious but very confused and in bad shape,” Pitterle said. Paramedics with Hellsgate Fire Department administered an IV and transported the man to a hospital.
Pitterle said he did not know how much water the men were carrying.
According to the National Park Service, a hiker should carry and drink about a gallon (4 liters) of water per day. They also suggest drinking one-half to one quart of water each hour spent hiking in the heat.