Unconscious man rescued in steep Arizona canyons

GILA COUNTY, Ariz. (NBC/KPNX) – Video shows a daring rescue near Roosevelt Lake in Arizona for a mountain climber who took a hard fall and was knocked unconscious while repelling through steep canyons.

Tonto Rim Search and Rescue shows us how it all panned out.

With rocks and boulders that are very difficult to navigate, options were limited about just how rescuers would extract a badly injured mountain climber who had taken a hard fall in Falome Canyon just north of Roosevelt Lake about midlake.

It’s a popular spot for canyoneers because of its steep canyon walls, rocky and difficult terrain, and pools of water throughout.

Winds were gusting on Tuesday, and more than two dozen rescuers set out in different directions.

“Due to the critical nature of the injuries and the fact that by the time we got there we had to hike 2 ½ miles out to where he was, set up a rope system — maybe dark or gusty winds picking up — so then we might not be able to get a helicopter in there to help us,” said rescuer Bill Pitterle.

Rescuers raced daylight to get to the climber and then extract him.

“I had quite a few of my people show up, so I had the ability to designate some of them to go ahead and set up for vertical — just in case we couldn’t get a helicopter if he decided it was too far outside his parameters for dropping a longline,” said Pitterle. “So we’re working plan A, but we’ve got plan B,C,D and E going on in our minds all the time.”

Thanks to the technical training and knowledge of the difficult terrain — after hiking, swimming, and setting up vertical lines to pull that climber to safety — Plan A worked.

“And then the helicopter ready, and the helicopter lifted him up out of the canyon,” said Pitterle.

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