November 28, 2023


PHOENIX —Phoenix and Tempe firefighters rescued a hiker from Papago Park Sunday after she went off trail and became stuck in a cave.

Phoenix Fire Capt. Aaron Ernsberger said the rescue took about two hours and involved approximately 16 firefighters.

One of the firefighters rappelled down to the cave, placed the woman in a harness, and then rappelled her down to an area where they could walk the rest of the way.

“It appears to be very dangerous,” Ernsberger said of the rescue. “You’re in a precarious situation. Obviously to the untrained personnel, it’s very dangerous, but fire departments, we train on this all the time.”

Firefighters drill out areas in the rocks and place anchors to help with technical rescues.

Elizabeth Gutierrez, who moved to the area three weeks ago, was able to call for help on her cellphone. She said she was relieved when she saw firefighters arrive.

“It was kind of scary,” she said of rappelling down the mountain,” but I felt safe because he was holding me and I knew that they were there to help me.”

Ernsberger said it was the third mountain rescue of the day for Phoenix firefighters. He estimated the department responds to more than 150 mountain rescues a year.

“She was outperforming her ability and anyone’s ability, really,” he said. “This mountain looks unassuming. It looks fun. It doesn’t look that dangerous until you get on it and then you get in these situations. … It’s always easier to go up than it is to come down.”

“I thought there would be a way down, but no, there’s not always a way down,” Gutierrez said. “You should be prepared.”

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