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Early-morning hikers hit the Arizona trails to beat the heat

PHOENIX — Hiking trails in the Valley are getting plenty of presunrise usage as the first 90-degree day of the year arrives, but those morning climbers still need to take precautions, said a rescue worker.

Carloads of hikers started arriving at Piestewa Peak on Tuesday before dawn, even before the gates opened, to get ahead of the heat.

But beating the sun shouldn’t be their only consideration, said Phoenix Fire Capt. Jonathan Jacobs. The mid-90 temperatures combined with single-digit humidity can’t be ignored.

“Hikers must stay hydrated. Every year we see a lot of people get stuck on the Valley mountains and they can’t physically continue,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said rescue crews see many people who are in the Valley this time of year to enjoy the weather and they hit the trails in the preserve areas without understanding the challenges.

“Sometimes the mountains don’t look that tough. Add in the heat element and now it goes up to a whole different level. Especially if your body isn’t tuned to the temps. That is a recipe for disaster.”

Last year Phoenix Fire carried out 164 mountain rescues. Jacobs said the department is on pace top that number with 72 rescue calls already on the books this year. Last year from Jan. 1 through the end of March there were 36 mountain rescues.

“When you move from heat cramps to heat exhaustion, it doesn’t matter how much you think you can climb, your body is not going to let you,” Jacobs said.