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Stranded, Exceeding Abilities, Inadequate Equipment, Climbing Alone, Arizona, Wilson Canyon



Arizona, Wilson Canyon

On February 25, 1988, Damien Glassy (30s) had ascended the standard Wilson Mountain Trail (south) to the summit of Wilson Mountain by himself. He had on minimal clothing, tennis type shoes, and a day pack with a climbing rope and harness, ‘Just in case the going got rough!” He also had a survival blanket and some water. Appar- ently, he reached the summit and decided to descend by a less traveled route. Traveling south, he reached a wash which he assumed would lead him down. He finally reached terrain which allowed use of his rope for descending on rappel. After each rappel he retrieved his rope and continued on down. Eventually he reached a drop of more than 125 meters. Having only enough rope for a descent of 20 meters at a time, and unable to climb out of what he had just come down, Damien found himself stranded on a one meter plus-wide ledge. Rescuers arrived just before sunset having been alerted by a passer-by who heard “screams from a vertical sheer face.” Rescue team members finally were able to get below Damien at nightfall and established voice contact. After learning from him that he had, indeed, come down from the top, and after careful consideration of the more than 150 meters vertical free-climb that separated them, the rescue operation was changed to a top access evacuation. A single rescuer was lowered vertically to Damien’s position and both were hauled out using conventional raising systems and a very long rope! Damien had less than a year of mountaineering experience and had purchased the rope and harness only a month earlier. The survival blanket he had taken along probably saved his life since the temperatures that night were below freezing (with wind chill). The total cost of this rescue, including dropping rescuers on top by helicopter—$16,000. (Source: Reed Thorne, Captain—Technical Rescue, Sedona Fire Department)

(Editor’s Note: These two incidents were costly—both to a rescuer and the taxpayers. The Sedona Fire Department has been quite busy with climbing rescues in the past few years.)