A 28-year-old Brooklyn man said he had to be rescued twice in two days while hiking in Arizona mountains — and was “encouraged” by authorities not to make a third attempt.
Philip Vasto called 911 about 7 p.m. March 2 when he got lost on Humphreys Trail in the San Francisco Peaks overlooking Flagstaff, according to the Coconino Sheriff’s Office.
The trail runs through about 5.5 miles of steep, rocky terrain between the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort and Humphreys Peak, the state’s highest point — with an elevation of almost 13,000 feet.
Tracked vehicles from the resort evacuated Vasto, who began his attempt at about 2:30 p.m., from the mountain at around 10,600 feet. He declined medical attention.
Rescuers told Vasto about the dangers of hiking without the proper tools and planning, responding officer Sgt. Aaron Dick told the Arizona Daily Sun.
He said the search and rescue personnel encouraged the adventurer to wait a couple of months before trying again.
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,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
But Vasto, who completed his first major hike two years ago at the Grand Canyon, decided to give it another go the next day — with similar results.
“I was thinking if I start early in the morning, I’ll have all the time in the world to reach the summit,” Vasto told the news outlet.
“The first attempt ended prematurely because I started late,” he wrote on Instagram.
He began his second attempt the next day around 9 a.m., but called 911 again at 5 p.m. to say he needed help again after a fall.
“My second attempt ended with an elevation gain of 3,140 ft, only 200 ft short of reaching the summit. As much as I had wanted to touch the peak, I had to turn around near the top,” Vasto wrote.
“With brutal, chilling winds blowing at (more than) 25 mph and freezing temperatures, Humphreys Peak is no joke in March,” he wrote. “I highly advice NOT attempting Humphreys Peak in the winter. You can easily injure yourself and get hypothermia up there.”
He added: “I did mess up my leg a bit,” adding that his misguided effort was “arguably scarier and more dangerous than Kilimanjaro at this time of year.”
Phillip Wyatt, another hiker who stopped to help Vasto, said it was “very apparent that he wasn’t prepared for the climate that he had gotten himself into.”
Wyatt provided his number to the rescuers so they could make contact if Vasto’s phone ran out of battery because he had been using it to check his route on a trail app.
“I really respect Phil’s perseverance,” Wyatt told the Daily Sun. “I hope that he’s able to make it to the top sometime.”
Vasto told his followers that he was “not ashamed of turning back.
“After all, life isn’t worth losing for a cool Instagram picture. Part of being a hiker is realizing your own human limitations and respecting the mountain and the climate,” the self-described “experienced hiker” wrote as he vowed to go back “when there is much less snow.”