About Coconino County

About Coconino County

Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.

Hunters Lost

It's been a common theme lately with our call-outs: Hunters lost or reported overdue. And it's usually been a good distance from our base in Flagstaff. And it's usually been late at night or during the wee hours of the morning.

But the SAR volunteers have responded, getting out of their warm beds and going out into the cold nights to  search and rescue. At least, that was plan on several recent occasions. I've been able to respond to only one of these calls, in part because I've been away at a Ropes That Rescue class for a week (more on that later), but I've gotten the scoop from teammates. The missions have gone something like this...

Overdue hunters on horseback, not dressed for the conditions. SAR is called, drives to the search area a few hours away, and arrives just as the three are spotted by the helicopter.

Overdue hunters again. SAR responds. The helicopter spots the subjects, and SAR waits at the building for about an hour in the middle of the night until it's confirmed the lost have been retrieved.

Hunter is reported overdue near Happy Jack. SAR is called, drives an hour or so. Hunter is found at the first campsite SAR checks.

Lost hunters south of Williams, Arizona. They walked away from their truck but couldn't find their way back. So SAR responds just after midnight and arrives on the scene just after the pair are spotted and retrieved by the helicopter. One of them isn't feeling well and after being flown to the road, climbs into the waiting ambulance for treatment as SAR turns trucks and trailers around and heads home. (I responded to this one and got back into bed six hours after getting out of it, just as the sun was coming up.)

Overdue hunter near Long Lake. SAR is called around 2:30am. The team is ready to deploy from the building when the coordinator receives a call: the helicopter has spotted a campfire. SAR waits at the building until it's confirmed that the hunter and his horse have been found and rescued. (Read a synopsis of the incident on FlagScanner.com.)

Well, such is SAR sometimes. But the next time could very well be one of those times when the team saves a life. You just never know, so you go when you can.

The alpine season is back, and the San Francisco peaks are getting whiter, so our technical team will be training accordingly. And in the spirit of the season, this is the "mountaineering bible" members of our team are reading and reviewing....

Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills: 50th Anniversary

"Since the publication of the first edition in 1960, Freedom, as the book is known, has endured as a classic mountaineering text. From choosing equipment to tying a climbing knot, and from basic rappelling techniques to planning an expedition, it is all here in this essential mountaineering reference. A team of more than forty experts, all active climbers and climbing educators, reviewed, revised, and updated this compendium to reflect the latest evolutions in mountaineering equipment and techniques. Major updates include a significant new chapter on conditioning, plus detailed and extensive revisions to rescue and first-response, aid climbing, and waterfall and ice climbing."

For cold-weather and mountaineering gear and clothing, check out Appalachian Outdoors.