Firefighter rappels down Papago Mountain to rescue woman

A hiker found herself stuck inside a cave a couple hundred of feet up Papago Mountain on Sunday. Firefighters had to rappel down the steep terrain to get her and bring her down safely.

22-year-old Elizabeth Gutierrez waited nearly two hours inside a cave to be rescued because she couldn't get down on her own.

This was the first time Gutierrez hiked at Papago Park.

She decided to free climb the south side of the mountain on her own, which proved to be a dangerous decision.

Firefighters climbed nearly 300 feet up Papago Mountain to perform what they call a down-to-down rescue.

"They go above the patient, they rappel down to the patient, hook her up to a harness, take her back on down to a safety zone," said Phoenix Fire Department Capt. Aaron Ernsberger.

More than a dozen firefighters were involved in the rescue, but only one rappelled down the mountain and into the cave.

He hooked the hiker up to a harness and helped her rappel down the nearly vertical drop.

"It was kind of scary, but I felt safe because he was holding me," said Gutierrez.

Along the way, the hiker lost one of her shoes, but that was the only casualty as they scaled the mountain down to safety.

Firefighters say the woman made the right call by asking for help. If she would've tried to get out of that cave alone and fallen, she could have fell about 200 feet.

"These mountains are very precarious. We have great weather, they seem unassuming and as you know, anyone who's gotten stuck on a tree or a fence, it's easier to go up than come back down," said Ernsberger.
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