It took 20 people 14 hours to rescue a young couple from what they thought would be a short hike in Sedona.
The two, a 20-year-old Sedona woman and a 25-year-old Cottonwood man, were not prepared with food, water or warm clothing, and had intended to hike the Sterling Pass Trail from Highway 89A in Oak Creek Canyon to Vultee Arch. The 5-mile, round-trip hike is considered moderately strenuous, with a steep climb to the pass midway along the well-marked trail.
Officials said that somehow the couple got off trail and "cliffed out," stranding themselves on a 2-square-foot ledge some 50 feet off the ground. The man called 911 on his cell phone. Rescuers soon found them but had a hard time accessing the area where they were standing.
Rescuers attached a line to a pine tree on the cliff top 30 feet above the two hikers and then harnessed the couple in. One of the hikers fell off the ledge as a member of the Search and Rescue team tried to reach them, sending all three swinging across the cliff attached to the rope. Other rescuers lowered them to the canyon floor.
A Sheriff's office official said that rescuers had intended to hike the pair out to their vehicle, but they decided they would have to carry the woman out because she was frightened and in need of medical attention.
It took rescuers until about 4 a.m. Thursday morning to get the pair to safety, as the woman had to be hiked out in a wheeled basket and transported to the Flagstaff Medical Center. She suffered scrapes, bruises, strains and sprains as a result of the fall. The two were also suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.
The rescue volunteer on the rope was complaining of pain and sent for a medical check-up.
Personnel from the Coconino County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue, the Sedona Fire Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue all participated in the rescue.
Eric Betz can be reached at 556-2250 or email@example.com.