At approximately 2 p.m. on Monday, July 9, Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, Guardian Medical Transport, and Ponderosa Fire District responded to an injured hiker in the Lava River Caves north of Flagstaff. The 44-year-old male hiker from Cordes Lakes, suffered an ankle injury near the end of the cave and was unable to walk out on his own.
Ponderosa Fire and Guardian Medical personnel hiked in to initiate patient care while Search and Rescue carried a litter and responded with additional personnel to transport the hiker out of the cave. Twenty-three rescue personnel from the three agencies were involved in the operation.
The terrain in the cave as well as the darkness made for a challenging rescue according to a Search and Rescue press release. After an approximately three-and-a-half-hour operation, rescuers were able to get the hiker out at 5:52 p.m. The hiker was transported to Flagstaff Medical Center for treatment of an ankle injury.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind hikers planning a trip to the Lava River Cave to be prepared for the conditions inside the cave. In addition to total darkness, the ground is rocky and uneven. Temperatures range from 32 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit inside the cave even during the summer. It is recommended that hikers use a headlamp and helmet as well as wear appropriate hiking footwear if they plan on doing the hike.