Get Out There

Twice-rescued Man Underscores Need to Be Prepared

One man’s recent hiking trip can teach us how not to get outdoors. We can poke fun at this story because it has a happy ending. Phillip Vasto of Brooklyn, New York, is fine. He made it home alive. But, he was so under-prepared for a hike he attempted earlier this month that he needed to be rescued twice in two days.

Warning: Unless you are an experienced alpine mountaineer, DO NOT attempt Humphreys Peak in the winter. There is so much snow that it’s difficult to follow the trail and very easy to fall off of it. Moreover, the wind is absolutely brutal,” Mr. Vasto posted later online.

He was hiking Humphreys Trail overlooking Flagstaff, AZ. He underestimated the winter weather and challenging conditions. Although he describes himself as an experienced hiker, he was under-prepared and wasn’t up to the climb.

On his first attempt to climb to the peak, he needed to be taken off the mountain on snow-traveling vehicles but did not require medical assistance. He had set out at 2:30 p.m., gotten lost and called 911, concerned he wouldn’t find the trail again. By the time the rescuers got to him, he was back on the trail and headed downhill, but it was late in the day, and he was exhausted.  

The next day he set out earlier, thinking he would give himself more time to reach the top. Instead, he had to call 911 after falling from a ridge. He needed to be rescued via a helicopter. Another hiker had stopped to help him. Phillip Wyatt stayed with him and gave search and rescue his phone number as Mr. Vasto’s own phone battery was running low because he’d been using it as a map.

Mr. Wyatt observed that it was “very apparent that he wasn’t prepared for the climate that he had gotten himself into.”

Mr. Wyatt’s words are surprising as Mr. Vasto describes himself as an experienced hiker. However, there is a difference between hiking in New York and Arizona. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are in one area; if you don’t do your research, aren’t dressed appropriately, don’t have the right gear, you could be in grave danger.

We can chuckle about the fact that the Sheriff’s Office put out a statement saying that Mr. Vasto was “provided with preventative search and rescue education about the conditions on the trail and the approaching winter storm and encouraged to not attempt the hike again.” It’s funny because he lived and got home safely. But hiking without a way to reliably contact emergency services and visibly under-prepared is no laughing matter. We’re always thrilled when people get out and about, but it’s essential to do so in responsible, educated ways!

Banner image: Maël Balland via Pexels

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