Cell Phones, Lost Nerve Key In Pair Of Arduous Rescues

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The last place you want to second-guess yourself is at the top of a waterfall some 700 feet deep in a remote, rugged canyon.

One woman did just that Wednesday evening in Parker Creek Canyon and had to spend a night hungry and cold with her friends until rescuers could coax her down.

Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Commander Bill Pitterle said about 10 a.m. Thursday he got a call from the Gila County Sheriff’s Office that three people were stuck in Parker Creek Canyon after a woman in the group refused to rappel down the last of five waterfalls.

“She froze and they couldn’t talk her into going down,” Pitterle said.

Reportedly, the group had set off down the quartzite canyon, located off Highway 288 in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

The group planned to canyoneer, which is rappelling down multiple waterfalls and swimming through pools, until they reached the bottom where a steep trail leads back to the trailhead.

After rappelling down three waterfalls with two male companions, the woman started down the fourth fall. She slipped and banged herself up a little, freaking herself out, Pitterle said.

“She was not too bruised up, but it probably scared her a little,” he said.

At the fifth and final fall, the woman refused to belay down. “They couldn’t talk her into going over it so they spent the night out there,” he said.

Unprepared for an overnight stay, the group had no extra water, food or clothing. Luckily, they had a lighter and were able to build a fire. The group drank water from the creek, something the woman was worried would make her sick, Pitterle said.

In the morning, the men tried to convince the woman to belay down the waterfall, but again she refused. So one climber used their single harness to belay down the fall and hike out for help at 10 a.m. Thursday.

By 1 p.m., Pitterle and a team of five other TRSAR volunteers had arrived at the canyon. The team determined the quickest way to get to the group would be to hike down a different canyon until they were over the group. They would then rappel down to the woman and her friend.

“Where we went down, we wound up below them,” Pitterle said.

Using ascenders, a TRSAR volunteer climbed 60 feet up the waterfall to the woman and man.

“We rigged her up with two lines and convinced her to come down. We then lowered her down the last rappel and then she could hike out,” he said.

Uninjured, the group hiked out to the trailhead.

Highline rescue

On Sunday, Aug. 29, TRSAR located three hikers lost near Christopher Creek.

One man and two women, all in their 20s, were hiking the Highline Trail, east of See Spring Trail, when they lost the trail and found themselves wandering through the forest with a monsoonal storm fast approaching.

Using a BlackBerry cell phone, the group called for help just as heavy rain started around 8 p.m.

The BlackBerry reportedly had a map feature on it that told the group where they were, but the group could not figure out how to access the map’s coordinates, rendering the map virtually useless to rescuers.

“We hiked in and one team went north while another went south,” Pitterle said.

Although rescuers had whistles, the lost hikers could not hear them because of blowing wind.

Eventually, the woman who owned the phone texted the group’s locale to a Gila County Sheriff’s deputy who relayed the coordinates to searchers.

Around 12:30 a.m., the group was found uninjured and escorted out.

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