Man Trapped While Hiking, Calls 911… Twice


The Arizona Daily Sun reported in March 2022 that a 28-year-old man out of Brooklyn, New York, named Phillip Vasto called 911 when he became lost on a mountain range in Northern Arizona. The next day… he dialled 911 for the second time hiking on the same mountain range.

Vasto was visiting on business when he decided he would attempt to summit Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff, Arizona. Standing at nearly 13,000 feet, Humphrey’s Peak is the tallest in Arizona.

Using YouTube, as well as the trail guide app AllTrails for research, Vasto believed he could reach the summit in two to three hours. However, most of his research pertained to trail conditions in milder seasons and did not reflect the snowy conditions he would face in early March.

He began his first attempt at two-thirty in the afternoon and struggled to keep his bearings in the heavy snow. “It was very easy to get off the trail and fall into the snow,” Vasto said.

When the night began to fall and not being equipped with a light source, Vasto became increasingly concerned. By about 6:50 PM, he called 911 and reported that he was lost on the trail but would try to navigate his way back.

Fortunately, the search and rescue unit from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched. They found Vasto and spoke to him about the dangers of hiking without proper equipment and planning. They also encouraged him to come back in a couple of months to revisit the trail during a better season.

Less than 24 hours later, Vasto decided not to heed that advice and attempted to summit Humphrey’s Peak again. This time, he started at about 9:00 AM. He said: “I was thinking if I start early in the morning, I’ll have all the time in the world to reach the summit.”

By about three-thirty in the afternoon, he had yet to reach the summit and soon after, he decided to turn around. “The reason why I turned back, what was slowing me down so much was just how powerful the wind was blowing,” he said.

On the way back, he slipped off the trail and suffered minor abrasions to his leg. He then discovered that his phone only had five percent of its battery life left since he had been using it as his primary navigation device. At about 5:00 PM, he called 911 again.

This time, because of the increasing winds and overnight forecast, the search and rescue team had to request assistance from the Northern Air Rescue Unit, which sent out a helicopter to rescue Vasto. This time, the search and rescue team encouraged him not to attempt the hike again.

The day after his second rescue, Vasto took to Instagram to post about his experience. He uploaded pictures of himself smiling on the snow-capped mountain and wrote: “I highly advise NOT attempting Humphreys Peak in the winter.”

He added: “After all, life isn’t worth losing for a cool Instagram picture.”

One thing Vasto didn’t do was to detail on Instagram how he called 911 twice. He also didn’t have to foot the bill. Arizona search and rescue operations cost about one thousand dollars an hour and are funded by the state taxpayer dollars.

When asked by the Daily Sun about that notable omission, Vasto said he could adequately tell his story on social media without the full details. He said: “We make posts on social media about how we want others to see us.”

Vasto isn’t quite finished with Humphrey’s Peak yet and has plans to visit in May 2022.


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