What Could Go Wrong for Two Grown Men on a Simple Mountain Hike? Nearly Everything
In the summer of 2013, Don Sears and Joseph Daniel explored the rocky canyons of Clear Creek, Arizona. What should have been an ordinary hike soon turned into a matter of life and death.
Don invited his friend Joseph to go hiking. “I told him I’d take him into the wilds of Arizona, into one of my favorite places. The last time I’d been in there was in 2010.”
Joseph describes the area. “It’s a very big forest reserve, about 20,000 square miles, in Coconino County, and we had trouble finding the trailhead.”
“Unbeknownst to me,” Don explains, “the Forest Service had gone in there and changed the numbers on the road, and we could not find the road.”
They decided to keep going anyway. Don knew if they found the creek, they could get out easily. He says, “We tried to find another way down, and unfortunately, we got trapped in this canyon. We crossed two bodies of water that we could not re-cross. Even if we were able to swim back to where we dropped into the water, we couldn’t get the traction to climb up that chute.”
Joseph explains, “There’re no hand-holds or anything at all. It’s sheer rock. (It’s) straight down. At that point, we can’t go back. We can’t go further. It’s been 5 or 6 hours, and we don’t have any water or food. We lost our pack.”
Don finally found an area where he thought he could climb out. “I got up about 40 feet, and hit another vertical wall. I started up it, and got about 2/3 the way up, and I just ran out of gas. I realized even if I made it over the lip of that wall and went on up, I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have the strength left to pull my body weight up. So I said, ‘I need to go back down. I can’t spend the night up here on the side of this cliff.’”
Don began to descend, but he slipped and fell, landing in a crevice. He dislocated his right shoulder and broke his left shoulder as he fell. “I wasn’t going anywhere. That was it. I couldn’t go down. There was the possibility that if I tried to get down where Joseph was, that I would start falling, and would not be able to stop.”
Don and Joseph, both Christians, knew what they had to do – pray. But prayer wasn’t the first thing on Don’s mind. “I was angry! I was angry at God; that He allowed this to happen. I was angry at Joseph, because he made some decisions, and I made some decisions, and I was angry at me! I could have gotten Joseph out of there when he crossed it, but when I crossed it, there was no way back.”
Don calmed down, and tried to make a 911 call, but he didn’t have a signal. Joseph says, “He threw the phone to me, and I went to another part of the canyon about 100 feet away. But I was still in yelling distance, so as I made my way up this crevice, I was yelling to him every five minutes. I began to decree things like, ‘Our Father is with us.’, ‘The angels are here.’ ‘Jesus is here.’ ‘This is going to be all right.’”
Don adds, “As Joseph was climbing out, we were praising and praying between each other.”
Joseph continues, “From there, I went up about 200 feet, using my body. I’d never climbed before, and I kept hearing the Holy Spirit inside me, ‘It’s going to be OK. Grab here. Grab there. Turn this way. Turn that way.’”
Don describes the usual entrance and exits for this particular location. “The only way that you get in and out of this section of the canyon that we were in, is that people rappel into it on ropes. And they go out on the ropes they came in on. He (Joseph) free climbed out of that canyon!”
While Don waited and prayed, Joseph found a man named Michael who had climbing gear in his car. Don was cold, and it started to get late.
“Michael rappelled down to about 30 feet above me,” says Don. “That’s the safest place that he could be. He sent me down a jacket to put on, which really was a Godsend.”
Michael sat with him for 3 hours as they waited for the search and rescue team. And during those 3 hours, Don shared with Michael about God’s saving grace. They got him out of the canyon the following morning.
Joseph describes the final leg of the rescue from the canyon. “They transferred him from the helicopter basket to the medical cart, and it was very hard, because of the wind from the helicopter. And he was very sick and fragile, and we put him in the ambulance from there.”
Looking back at how God saved him in the canyon, Don says a Bible verse helped him make it through the night. “I was reminded of Romans 8:28, which has been a scripture for me. ‘We know that God causes all things to work together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purposes.’”
“Ask Him everything that’s on your heart and just believe. Trust; you have to trust. And if there’s doubt, ask the Lord to take the doubt away. I read in Your Word that You are all- powerful, You are all-knowing. I want to know the answer. I want to see this. But you have to trust, and you have to ask for help.”