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Hikers trapped on cliff in Sedona rescued after several days in extreme weather

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Posted at 10:32 AM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 19:12:45-05

SEDONA, AZ — Three hikers trapped on Bear Mountain in Sedona were rescued after spending several days in snowy and dangerous conditions.

Yavapai County Sheriff's Office received the call for help on Sunday night. The hikers said they had been hiking for about eight hours and had rappelled down a cliff but became stuck, facing dying phone batteries, few supplies, and extreme weather.

Weather conditions reportedly stalled multiple aerial rescue efforts. Search-and-rescue crews from multiple counties and departments hiked for two days through 18 inches of snow on rough terrain to try to reach the hikers.

"As we were getting to the second rappel point. The blizzard came in. We couldn’t rappel down the second 150-foot drop," said Scott Brand, one of the stranded hikers. "We decided to call the [Yavapai County] Sheriff's Office and see if they could get someone over to us, or a drone up, or something. Then we found a little alcove to shelter in [to] wait it out."

Unfortunately for the group, weather conditions and visibility thwarted multiple rescue attempts.

"We called 911 Sunday at 5:30 p.m., and we were rescued Tuesday at around 5 p.m.," said Brand.

In those 48 hours, YCSO tried to fly supplies up to the group using a drone, but Brand says a propeller broke.

A rescue crew hiked up, but they also got stuck.

"They were about half a mile away from us. The problem was the conditions were so bad they couldn’t see the bottom of the drop. and some of their guys ended up getting stuck on that cliff face," said Brand.

"So they had to send up another team to rescue the rescue team."

As the weather continued to delay help arriving, the situation became increasingly dire and desperate.

"Tuesday was kind of the crunch point. We really needed to either get out of there or have some supplies brought in," said Brand.

The group had not eaten since Monday morning, and all three were starting to experience frostbite due to their wet socks and freezing temperatures.

All three of their phones also died on Tuesday.

"We were all out of batteries on Tuesday. So, we were very lucky that they were able to find us," said Brand.

Just as hope was dwindling and fear was rising, they heard the hum of the helicopter.

"They flew over us at first. I said, 'Oh no, maybe they didn’t see us!'" said Brand.

"Then they looped around. We waved at them again, and the crew chief leaned out and waved down at us. That was the best feeling in the world."

The group is overwhelmed with gratitude to all the rescue teams.

"We can’t thank everybody who was involved in this enough," said Brand. "The National Guard helicopter pilots and crew were on standby out there for like two full days."

YCSO also set-up nearby communications to stay in better communication with, and closer proximity to, the group.

Brand says the group has learned some lessons -- the hard way.

"Make sure you have a plan. Make sure someone else, who doesn’t go with you, has your plan," he said. "And make sure you have an extra pair of socks."

“Considering the severe weather, these hikers are extremely lucky to be alive. This is an important reminder to pay attention to the weather conditions before embarking on our trails. Winter or summer, Arizona trails can be dangerous if you aren’t prepared,” said Sheriff David Rhodes.