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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Extreme Snow Recreationists Lack Proper Permits

Low visibility and avalanche warning accompany severe winter storms in Flagstaff, AZ this month.

Flagstaff, AZ -- Recent search and rescue (SAR) operations in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness area remind snow recreationists that requisite backcountry permits can aid rescue efforts. Three Flagstaff residents attempting to summit Humphreys Peak during January’s severe snow storm were rescued by Coconino County crews and Arizona Snowbowl snowcat drivers.

Earlier that week, fifteen SAR personnel on snowshoes and snowcats searched outside ski boundaries on Agassiz Peak for an overdue snowboarder. The nineteen-year-old walked to SAR containment team on Friedlein Prairie Road. He was transported by ambulance to Flagstaff Medical Center.

The three Humphrey Peak hikers described themselves as experienced climbers reported the Arizona Daily Sun. They left the Arizona Snowbowl ski area at 11 a.m. and headed for the summit. They hiked past the WWII bomber at “Dutchman” and reached 12,000 feet before weather forced them back from their Arizona adventure. They were guided back by SAR’s snowcat lights at 10 p.m. after becoming disoriented.

None of those rescued had Kachina Peaks Wilderness permits.

The permit is required for persons accessing the Kachina Peaks Wilderness from the Arizona Snowbowl and two locations along Snowbowl Road during winter months only.

Steep slopes make the Kachina Peaks Wilderness susceptible to avalanche conditions and unstable snow.
The Coconino National Forest Service (CNFS) hopes that the permit will inform snow recreationists about hazards of the winter backcountry. It is designed to assist the CNFS and the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office with SAR efforts when needed.

Hikers and snow recreationists using the backcountry during the winter should be trained in avalanche recognition and rescue techniques by certified instructors recommends experts at the CNFS. The CNFS also lists hiking safety tips at  13 essential equipment items for hikers using the backcountry.

Adventure girl, get your permit!
The fine for the first permit offense is $50. Violators are punishable by fines of <$5000 for an individual, or $10,000 for others, or imprisonment for Read more about the rules and regulations associated with the permit here.

Kachina Wilderness backcountry hikers and snow recreationists are required to register at Arizona Snowbowl’s Hart Prairie Lodge ticket windows or above the Agassiz Lift.

The free permit is available at Peaks Ranger District and Supervisor's Office in winter weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on weekends at Agassiz Lodge at the Arizona Snowbowl (when Snowbowl is open) from 9 to 11 a.m.

For more information, call (928) 526-0866 or click here.

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