Teen rescued after spending night on Thunder Mountain

A 15-year-old boy was rescued Thursday morning from the south aspect of Capitol Butte (also known as Thunder Mountain) in Sedona by the Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team Back Country Unit aided by a DPS Ranger Helicopter. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

A 15-year-old boy was rescued Thursday morning from the south aspect of Capitol Butte (also known as Thunder Mountain) in Sedona by the Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team Back Country Unit aided by a DPS Ranger Helicopter. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

SEDONA – A 15-year-old boy was rescued Thursday morning from the south aspect of Capitol Butte (also known as Thunder Mountain) in Sedona by the Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team Back Country Unit aided by a DPS Ranger Helicopter.

According to a news release from Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, the teen left his home around 9 a.m. Wednesday wearing leggings, shorts, a hooded sweater, a baseball cap, running shoes, and a small backpack containing minimal water and food.

“His intentions were to summit Capitol Butte, a long-time goal,” said YCSO.

Capitol Butte is the most prominent landmass in the immediate vicinity, just north of down town Sedona with little to no summit trails.

Once reaching the summit of the Butte, the teen became disoriented and could not find the route back down, according to the release. At about 12:30 p.m., the teen called 911 requesting help. At this time, his phone was down to 1 percent battery life and communications with rescuers were brief before losing contact. When he called 911, his GPS coordinates were identified and he was told to remain stationary and allow rescue personnel to come to him.

At approximately 2:30 p.m., the Verde Search and Rescue team was deployed in the area of Vultee Arch Road nearest to the teen’s last known coordinates, said the agency. Due to the low lying clouds and weather conditions at that time, the DPS Ranger was unable to respond and assist in search efforts. After approximately one hour into the search, a concerned citizen called YCSO from the Andante trailhead and reported hearing a man yelling for help from the south side of Capitol Butte. A YCSO Forest Patrol Deputy arrived in this area and confirmed it was the stranded teen. The VSAR team was re-directed and the Back Country Unit from the Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team was called out to assist.

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A YCSO Forest Patrol Deputy remained on scene throughout the night to maintain radio communications along with a visual observation of the teen until he could be rescued in the morning at first light, stated the agency. (Photo Courtesy of YCSO)

Ground personnel from both rescue teams began an attempt to reach the teen around 7 p.m., according to the release. After three hours, the weather lifted and the DPS Ranger was requested as ground crews were unable to access the teen’s location. During a flyover, the DPS Ranger observer indicated the teen was inaccessible by air or ground due to darkness. As a result, the DPS Ranger lowered a backpack to the teen containing necessary supplies to survive the night including warm clothing, hand warmers, water and a radio. The DPS Ranger then flew the search and rescue volunteers off the mountain for the night to rest for a daylight rescue. A YCSO Forest Patrol Deputy remained on scene throughout the night to maintain radio communications along with a visual observation of the teen until he could be rescued in the morning at first light, stated the agency.

Around 7 a.m. Thursday, the DPS Ranger Helicopter responded back to Sedona, where they were able to insert a YCSRT BCU volunteer to the teen’s location and then air-lifted the pair to safety.

“This is a technique known as ‘short haul’ and involves a long line cable attached a winch mechanism on the helicopter. The teen was returned back to the ground at the Andante trailhead unharmed, and reunited with his family,” said YCSO.

The teen said he was “good” and he did not appear injured.

The Forest Patrol deputy shared the following lessons learned from this incident:

Never hike alone.

Never leave without telling someone where you're going, your intended route, how long you'll be gone and your expected return.

Carry the appropriate equipment for current and expected weather and terrain.

Carry adequate communications such as a fully charged cell phone, GPS, radio, or location transmitter.

Stay put once you’re in trouble, lost, and/or have called for help.

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