Experts: Hiking Camelback Mountain can be 'deceiving'

Posted at 9:28 PM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 09:01:29-04

Camelback Mountain: known for its brown rocks, postcard-worthy views and some of the best hiking in the Valley, if not the nation.

But this mountain also has a dark side. We saw that play out on Easter Sunday as an 18-year-old boy plummeted up to 100 feet as his little sister stood there, watching the whole thing play out, unable to come to his rescue.

"The cell phone ping wasn't working accurately," explained Phoenix Fire Capt. Tom Taylor. Taylor was not on that particular rescue mission, but has been on similar ones. 

The cell phone ping, a useful tool that allows first responders to get the exact location of someone in need of assistance, did not work because of where this tragedy happened. It occurred on a portion of Camelback so dangerous first responders call it, "Suicide Trail."

"The patient was too close to the cliff face to get a helicopter in there and perform a hoist safely."

Rescuers deployed a number of tactics in what they call a "steep angle evacuation," moving the patient with ropes and manpower to a safer place for the helicopter to land. 

"It's so deceiving and so easy to access," explained Dale Stewart, who owns the Arizona Hiking Shack off Thomas Road and 32nd Street in Phoenix. Stewart also spent more than a decade with MCSO responding to hikers in distress.

Stewart is familiar with the area where this young man fell. He says it's easy to get up the mountain and even easier to get confused. Getting down is the real challenge.

"You don't realize that until you're 50, 60, 70, feet and then you look and it was steeper than it was going up."

Stewart says the most important thing hikers can do in a situation like that is not panic. Try to asses the situation and see if the person in trouble is still breathing. And never move the patient; he or she could have sustained a major neck or spine injury and you could make it worse.

For more on how to handle hiking Valley trails, click here.