AZLRO and BAJA to the Rescue? (Long)

6 years 3 months ago #5786 by ipgregory
So last Sunday a group of us went out to run Sutherland Trail. It’s a medium + trail (in a LR) down near Tucson that dead ends about half way up the side of Mt. Lemmon. The intent was to see if we could find the long lost route to the top. Sutherland was built to run the power lines up to Summerhaven at the top of Mt. Lemmon and originally went all the way up to the top. Many years ago however a Wilderness Area was created and it cut a corner of the trail just over half way up and prevented (unofficial) vehicle traffic from making it all the way. Recently we found a map that showed that there was an alternate trail in place that skirted the corner of the Wilderness Area and suggested it may be possible to make it all the way up again. After some research with maps and aerial photos we determined that there may be a trail there and its long past time we went and found it… <!-- s:thumbup: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_1thumb_up.gif" alt=":thumbup:" title="thumbsup" /><!-- s:thumbup: -->

5 vehicles went, 4 Land Rovers and a Tom Car ATV. Normally this trail is about 4.5 miles long and takes about 7-8hrs to go up and back. The plan was to get up the normal portion as quickly as possible and then spend some time exploring for the new section. So up we went. Had some difficulties with one of the vehicles losing power and some of the trial having washed out some so we ended up taking longer to get to the creek at the top than we planned. Once there we decided since it was later than anticipated and the next bit was unknown we would abandon the attempt to reach the top but my D90 would go on for a bit to see what we could find. So Mike McDonald jumped in to spot and we headed over the creek. It was tough. The creek itself was a challenge and the next few hundred yards took us about an hour to get up. Then it eased out and we found the old spot where the trail lead down to the wilderness area. There was a fork and a newer trail headed off in the right direction. Armed with a GPS track we headed off to see where it went. Another ¼ mile and we ran into thick bush. Nobody has been up here in a long time. There are trees and small bushes growing in the middle of the trail!! Eventually we lost all evidence of the trail and had to stop. We scouted around for a bit but were already off the GPS route we had and didn’t want to go any further off and carve up the landscape. So we turned back, headed back to the rest of the group waiting at the creek and headed back down off the trail. Took us nearly 3 hours to go ½ mile and back and climb about another 700’. Nobody has been up there in a vehicle for a long time we surmised.

Quick note here, when we got home and examined the aerials and maps we found out we were actually on the right trail, the GPS track was wrong. Had we gone another few yards through the bush where we eventually stopped and turned back we would have found the trail again. So we’re going back!! <!-- s:boink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_boink.gif" alt=":boink:" title="boink" /><!-- s:boink: -->

Anyway that was later. On the way up the trail we met a guy hiking with an enormous pack on his back. He said he was heading up to do some Parasailing and that was his Parasail he was hauling. We talked to him for a few mins and off he went. As we were on the way down we saw him up in the air and the pic below is of him gliding. Further down and we noticed he had apparently ‘landed’ on one of the ridges to the north and we presumed was getting ready to go again. On we went and never thought about it. Further down and we ran into a new shiny black Jeep JK heading up the trail with a couple of guys who are obviously out of their element. Just getting them to pull off to the side so our bigger group could pass was tricky as they obviously didn’t want to scratch the new truck. We thought it strange that a single truck was heading up a dead end trail this late on a Sunday especially since they obviously weren’t prepared to deal with some of the tough stuff further up. Again we didn’t think much of it and carried on down.

We got back down and to the air up point at about 5:00pm. We’d hit the trail at 9 so we’d made pretty good time considering the 3hr bit in the middle while we explored. We aired up and chatted for a bit, started an emergency repair on one of the trucks, etc. like normal until we noticed a police SUV heading past at a fair rate of speed towards the trail all lit up.

This was one of those ‘light bulb going off in the head’ moments. We realized that the guy on the ridge hadn’t ‘landed’, he’d crashed and the guys in the jeep where on the way up to help him! Frank is a retired Emergency Medic so he grabbed his med kit from his truck and jumped in my 90 as it was the only truck ready to go at that point. We headed off after the cop. We knew where the guy was, knew the cop wasn’t getting anywhere near him in that SUV and knew the Jeep was going to struggle. The Jeep itself could make it but the guys in it probably couldn’t or wouldn’t. We knew we could if needed. We headed for the gate at the head of the trail at a rate of speed. Go to the gate, no cop. We could see his lights off to the north in the residential area. Maybe we were wrong? So we turned round and headed back towards the air up point only to have the cop heading towards us a few mins later. After flagging him down (we were blocking the trail anyway), we determined from him that yes there was a guy in trouble on the mountain and he was looking for the trial head. “Follow us”, we know where he is, where the trail head is and how to get there. So we turned round and took him back to the gate.

By that time they had the local police chopper up and it had located the guy but couldn’t land as he was on a steep ridge. There is no landing site closer than where we were 4 miles lower down at the trail head. We told the cop who was now the incident commander on scene that he was not going to get his SUV cruiser up there but if he needed us to, we could. After a few more mins the emergency first responders and medical volunteers started to show up now the cop could tell them where to go. Some more discussions and they asked if we could take a medic team up as it was going to take more time to get their ATVs there and the chopper couldn’t land. Frank jumped out, we threw all my stuff out of the back of the 90, loaded up the packs and gear for the 3 person medic team, they jumped in and off we went. 4 people and their large packs is a tight squeeze in a 90.. <!-- s:eek2: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_eek2.gif" alt=":eek2:" title="eek" /><!-- s:eek2: --> I warned them to hold on as it would be bumpy but I would get them there in 1 piece. Back through the gate and time to head up Sutherland for the 2nd time that day. I didn’t know what was happening behind me now, I headed up the trail as fast as I could.

While going up they were on the radio and discussing where they needed to go. The chopper told them the road was impassable after a certain point and that they would need to hike a fair way from where the jeep had made it to apparently. At that point I chimed in and pointed out to them that the jeep guys were not really equipped to tackle this road and that we had already been up and back down this trail today to a point higher up the mountain than the chopper was currently hovering. A point well past where the guy was. I asked them to determine the closest/best point from where this trail diverged to the ridge the guy was on and the shortest easiest hike for them and I could get them there. So they worked out with the chopper that there was a point about 4 miles up where the trail got as close to the ridge as possible before bending away. Could I get them there? “Yup, hang on”.

It was now dark (Night Run!! <!-- s:thumbup: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_1thumb_up.gif" alt=":thumbup:" title="thumbsup" /><!-- s:thumbup: --> ) but 40 mins later and 2 miles past the jeep we hit the bend and were only about ¼ mile from the ridge the guy was on. Drop off point. They climbed out, a few bruises no doubt but in one piece, loaded up and headed off on foot towards the injured guy. “I will be here when you’re done” I told them, turned the truck round and settled in to wait. 10 mins later Mike’s and Frank’s trucks came around the bend and dropped off another med team a sheriff’s deputy and more gear. Mike had finished packing his truck back up, followed us to the gate, found Frank, taken him back for his truck and they had then loaded up and followed me in about the same crazy time frame.

No sooner had we turned the trucks round and settled in to wait than a call comes over the radio to the guy stationed with us on the trail. Can we get 2 trucks back down to pick up a mountain rescue team and its gear and get them up there in case they have to rope him off the mountain by ground? They had requested a Customs Blackhawk Chopper come in from DM but they didn’t know if they could get him off with it as it was now dark and they couldn’t rely on the chopper solely in case it had to go or had mechanical issues. So Mike and I headed back down the trail. 30 mins later we were at what was now the basecamp at the gate. Frank stayed up on the trail in case they needed a truck or help up there.

By the time we got down the Blackhawk had landed at basecamp and they had decided to ‘short rope’ the guy under it off the ridge. So the mountain rescue team wouldn’t be needed. The existing med teams however needed to get back down when they got the guy away. So Mike and I turned round and headed back up the trail for the 3rd time that day (night?). A slower run now as the emergency was over, we made it back up to the drop off point just before the teams hiked back to the trail.

We watched them lift the guy off while we were driving up. That’s a BIG helicopter and the guy flying it really knows his business getting that close to the side of a mountain in the dark. They hovered as close as they could get, put the guy and a medic in a basket and lifted him off the mountain slung under the chopper on ropes. Took him back down and put him on the ground at basecamp. Landed the chopper and put him inside. Then flew him to a nearby Tucson hospital. Nice work guys!!

We loaded up the teams and gear and then took a more leisurely stroll back down the trail. Picked up the guys friends in the jeep and headed back down. The injured guys Jeep Cherokee was parked halfway up the trail where he had left it. One of his friends had a key so AJ drove McRover and Mike drove the Cherokee down for them as they didn’t know the trail. When we go to the bottom they headed off to the hospital.

Now about 10:30 at night and pretty tired, everybody grabbed some food they had had brought up and the local Deputy Sherriff on scene thanked us for our help. They estimated it would have taken them 5 hours or more to hike in there without our help and the guy would have had to wait for medical treatment. By taking the teams up we had managed to get them there much quicker to get him relief and allowed them to coordinate the chopper activities much easier and safer by having men on the ground. He wasn’t sure about involving civilians he said to begin with but we had turned out to be a major help to them.

The local paper ran a brief news article of the events here: ... f887a.html

The Deputy told us that he hadn’t had all the information when he had to release the info to the press so the wrong info in the report (ATVs?? <!-- s:angry: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_angry.png" alt=":angry:" title="angry" /><!-- s:angry: --> ) is not the papers fault, they only reported what was given to them earlier in the evening before we got back down. He asked who we were so we told him we were just a group of friends and that most of us belonged to a local club called AZLRO, he took our names and info and we went home.

Long day!!
and I still had a 2 hr drive home on what turned out to be a loose wheel… <!-- s:dizzy: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_dizzy.png" alt=":dizzy:" title="dizzy" /><!-- s:dizzy: -->

Ian Gregory - N1IPG

Current LR Stable: 97 D90 S/T #1008, 94 D90 S/W #1887 (Project), 98 D1 LSE
Memories of: 84 RRC Vogue 4dr, 93 RRC Vogue SE, 84 Ninety 2.5D S/W, 86 Ninety 2.5TD 2dr, 96 D1 SD.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

6 years 3 months ago #5787 by Red October
Holy crap what a day! <!-- s:shock: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_eek.gif" alt=":shock:" title="Shocked" /><!-- s:shock: --> Yes, blackhawks are massive once you see them up close. Always fun finding a hidden trail too. Great write up Ian. <!-- s:prosit: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_beerToast.gif" alt=":prosit:" title="prosit" /><!-- s:prosit: -->

03 DISCO &quot;THE RED OCTOBER&quot;
99 2DR TAHOE-gone but not forgotten


Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

6 years 3 months ago #5798 by RovnAZ
Very cool. Well done!

1984 90
2004 Discovery II (Dead)
1997 Tahoe
- Rob Woodward

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

6 years 3 months ago #5799 by azarmadillo
What an adventure! Wish I would have been there to help.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

6 years 3 months ago #5806 by
great story Ian. Well done. <!-- s:drivin: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_driving.gif" alt=":drivin:" title="drivin" /><!-- s:drivin: -->

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

6 years 3 months ago #5807 by admin
Nice (and sounds like hard) work. <!-- s:prosit: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_beerToast.gif" alt=":prosit:" title="prosit" /><!-- s:prosit: -->

00 G500

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

6 years 2 months ago #5964 by ipgregory
Received a very nice letter from the Southern Arizona Rescue Association. It's addressed to the club but they sent a copy to each of us (Mike M, AJ, Frank and Myself).

Ian Gregory - N1IPG

Current LR Stable: 97 D90 S/T #1008, 94 D90 S/W #1887 (Project), 98 D1 LSE
Memories of: 84 RRC Vogue 4dr, 93 RRC Vogue SE, 84 Ninety 2.5D S/W, 86 Ninety 2.5TD 2dr, 96 D1 SD.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

6 years 2 months ago #5965 by azarmadillo
That's an awesome letter, Ian!

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Time to create page: 0.464 seconds


AZLRO promotes safe off-road driving, supports the "Tread Lightly" program is active in maintaining access for off-road driving as we explore all the great state of Arizona has to offer.