- Associated Press - Sunday, July 31, 2016

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - A teenager’s recent death highlights a growing trend of hikers ignoring lightning danger and other risky conditions to ascend Arizona’s highest peak.

Visitors often continue up Humphreys Peak despite storm warnings, putting themselves in danger, Coconino County search and rescue officials tell the Arizona Daily Sun (https://bit.ly/2akKgBT).

“This is a unique opportunity, and people sometimes put safety behind the desire of reaching the summit,” said Pat McGervey, the Coconino National Forest Flagstaff Ranger District’s recreation planner. “There are signs of the weather that would normally turn somebody around, but they have summit fever.”

Lightning struck 17-year-old Jaxson Baxter, 18-year-old David Lyons and 17-year-old Wade Young as they reached the summit July 20. Young died, and Baxter and Lyons were injured.

Flagstaff Ranger District volunteer coordinator Paul Dawson said the second-most search and rescue calls in the county come from Humphreys Peak.

A program that started last year puts volunteers at the trailhead on summer weekends to educate hikers who may be unprepared for the 10-mile trek, Dawson said. “A lot of times folks will have stuff in their car and won’t feel like carrying it,” he said.

There is no data yet on the new program’s efficacy, Dawson said.

McGervey said that especially on weekends there are often few Forest Service workers in the designated wilderness area. “The direction is to provide visitors the most freedom possible and the least amount of restrictions while still protecting the resource and the wilderness character,” he said.


Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, https://www.azdailysun.com/

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