‘I ended up slipping.’- Brooklyn resident rescued after 2nd attempt to climb Arizona mountain

A Brooklyn resident says his two attempts to climb an Arizona mountain ended with two calls for help.

News 12 Staff

Mar 11, 2022, 1:17 AM

Updated 825 days ago


A Brooklyn resident says his two attempts to climb an Arizona mountain ended with two calls for help.
Phillip Vasto says he started hiking to new heights during the pandemic. He says that while on a work trip to Arizona last week, he wanted to try the local terrain.
“It’s the tallest peak in Arizona and I figured if I have conquered Kilimanjaro, then I could give Humphrey’s Peak a shot,” said Vasto.
He says he set off last Wednesday afternoon on the five-and-a-half-mile trek before realizing he wouldn’t make it before dark.
After turning around, Vasto says he lost the trail and started sinking in the snow. He then decided to dial 911.
“After my call, I found my way. I was able to get back onto the trail and I made my way down to the base of the mountain. Even the search and rescue employee, as well as the sheriff, said the hiker has self-extracted,” said Vasto.
The next day the 28-year-old says he set out again but this time hours earlier. But he says strong winds and oncoming winter weather forced him to reverse course once more.
“As I was going down the rocks, I ended up slipping, and I cut my leg pretty bad and so then I said, OK, I also landed on my butt and I was in pain and I said, it's the safest thing to make a phone call,” said Vasto.
Another hiker, who was also named Phillip, spotted Vasto and stayed with him until a helicopter airlifted both of them to safety.
However, backlash later began. “People cursing me out, people saying that I was putting lives at risk, that I was wasting taxpayer dollars... Isn't that what the purpose of search and rescue is, right? Don't we have those sorts of state budgets in place just in case, God forbid, there is a situation like the one I found myself in, that there can be a team to go and save them?” said Vasto.
The Gravesend man says he’s indebted to those search and rescue teams and the Coconino County Sherriff’s Office.
He says this is a lesson learned and will be better prepared.
The Coconino County Sherriff’s Office in Arizona released a statement saying, “We would like to shift the narrative back to one about safety in the backcountry and less about criticizing Mr. Vasto for his decision making."
They also encouraged hikers to do their research, understand the current conditions and come prepared with the right equipment.

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