Volunteer searchers rescued a 68-year-old hiker from Pine Sunday after he found himself marooned on a cliff, unable to climb up or down.
Ground searchers and a helicopter crew worked together to locate the man and get him safely back to his vehicle.
The man had set out at Geronimo Trail to do a loop hike that went up on the Mogollon Rim and back to the trailhead, said Bill Pitterle, commander with Tonto Rim Search and Rescue.
Somehow, however, the man got disoriented on the return trail and was soon lost.
The man continued hiking down until he came to a 25-foot cliff that he could not descend.
He found he could not go back the way he had come and was “ledged out,” Pitterle said.
Using his cell phone, the man called for help. Around 10:15 p.m., the Gila County Sheriff’s Office notified Pitterle and he rounded up a group of search and rescue volunteers.
Around the same time TRSAR arrived at the trailhead, a Department of Public Safety helicopter arrived and spotted the man on the ledge.
Due to the conditions, however, the helicopter could not reach the man.
The crew flew Pitterle up to see where the man was located and then dropped him and two other volunteers off in a clearing near Milk Ranch Point, two miles away from the man.
As searchers hiked down to the man, the helicopter crew shined a light on his location so they could find him easier.
“That helped immensely,” Pitterle said. “We couldn’t see him exactly because he was behind a cliff from (the vantage of the) rim.”
When Pitterle and rescuers Warner Thompson and Anthony Miotto got to an area above the man, they found they could climb down to him, although the terrain was “very rough and rugged.”
Once they got to him, they realized they would need to rappel over the 25-foot cliff or hike back up several hundred feet to the rim.
The men chose the quicker option: rappelling.
After getting everyone down the cliff, the men hiked two miles to the Geronimo trailhead. The men arrived back at the man’s vehicle around 7:30 a.m., nine hours after receiving the initial call from the sheriff’s office, Pitterle said.