Volunteers and sheriff’s officers are currently searching for an overdue 68-year-old hiker from the Valley.
The man, whose name has not been released, was last heard from more than a week ago and is believed to be hiking near the Mt. Peeley trail or Sheep Mountain, off Forest Road 201, southwest of Payson, said Tonto Rim Search and Rescue (TRSAR) Commander Bill Pitterle.
With steep ravines, chest-high manzanita and rolling rocks, the area is extremely rugged and difficult to search, Pitterle said.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office first received a call that the man was overdue Monday, Nov. 15 about 9 p.m.
“The hiker has not been heard from since Nov. 7 and frequents the Mazatzal Mountain Wilderness area,” according to a press release from the sheriff’s office.
The missing hiker’s vehicle was located Monday at the Mt. Peeley trailhead. TRSAR volunteers, Gila County and Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies and search and rescue crews are currently searching the ground. On Tuesday, a Department of Public Safety Ranger helicopter did an aerial search of the area, but found no signs of the man. Horses were also brought in, but because of the rough terrain, were pulled out.
A helicopter is being used to drop searchers and dogs in on various parts of the mountain; however, no sign of the man has been found.
“You think it would be impossible to have so many people and not find a track, but it is just so rugged,” Pitterle said.
Reportedly, the man lived alone and did not leave word on when he would return. When several e-mails went unreturned and neighbors and friends noticed mail piling up at his Valley home, they realized he was missing.
This was the third or fourth time the man had attempted to climb Mt. Peeley, Pitterle said.