This year is on track to be one of the most dangerous on Arizona’s hiking trails, expected to break the record for the most mountain rescues in the Valley.
Each year, Arizona attracts hundreds of avid hikers who take advantage of Arizona’s long summer and good weather. However, for people who have never experienced dry heat, being unprepared can be risky while on the trails.
The Phoenix Fire Department reported that from January to June 2015, there has been a total of 116 mountain rescues in the Valley. This year is proving similar to the increase of mountain rescues in 2014, where the fire department responded to 214 calls and a total of 120 from January to June.
According to Glenn Schlottman of Arizona State Parks, there are a few key aspects that anyone hiking in Arizona should understand.
“The key to any successful and safe hike is proper preparation,” Schlottman said. “In Arizona, hikers should be prepared for a variety of environmental conditions, and they should understand variables like elevation change, day-time highs, night-time lows, sun exposure, the dry air, terrain, thunderstorms and the plants and animals.”
For any hiker, the most essential item is water, which is even more true in Arizona.
“Most importantly, Arizona hikers need to be well hydrated and carry plenty of water,” Schlottman said. “They should avoid hike mid-day in hot weather. They should tell someone their hiking plan, avoid hiking alone, have proper trail maps and carry a phone in case of emergency.”
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Mountain rescues require a team of fire fighters or rangers who quickly and efficiently extract an individual from a trail. Injuries range from dehydration to even death.
“The most dangerous outcomes result from hiking in the heat without enough water,” Schlottman said. “Thunderstorms are also a leading factor in injuries and deaths, as they can result in flash floods and exposure to lightning.”
Although the number of mountain rescues has increased each year since 2010, the Arizona State Park officials say that the number is not high in comparison to other areas in the U.S.
“Arizona State Parks does not have a high occurrence of mountain rescues,” Schlottman said. “We strive to provide a safe outdoor recreation experience. Although hiking in the parks carries an inherent risk, talking with visitors about potential dangers and providing safe hiking tips helps to mitigate those risks.”
By educating the public on safe hiking habits, Arizona State Parks hopes to prevent a further increase in mountain rescues. The most important thing is for visitors and residents to know is how much water to carry during a hike.
“Many visitors to Arizona are not accustomed to the dry climate and excessive heat. They may not realize the amount of water that is required for them to stay properly hydrated, or how quickly the heat can put a hiker in danger. It is best to avoid hiking in the heat, especially during mid-day when the sun is at its hottest. Once their water supply is half gone, they should turnaround and head back to the trailhead.”
Source Phoenix Fire Department and Arizona State Parks.