Bandelier Rangers and National Guard Rescue Distressed Hikers


On Tuesday, June 19 Bandelier Rangers with the assistance of National Guard air support, conducted a successful search and rescue operation in the area between Alamo Canyon and Capulin Canyon.

Sandoval County 911 Center received a cell call Tuesday morning from a group in distress and requesting aid in the backcountry of Bandelier National Monument.

Sandoval County provided Bandelier personnel with the call’s GPS coordinates, and Bandelier Archaeologist/Rangers Heath Bailey and David Shiffler, who were already in the vicinity, immediately responded.

The parties in distress, including a 15-year-old male, a 48-year-old female and a 79-year-old female, had planned to camp the previous night in Capulin Canyon where there is a water source, but never made it that far.

They had run out of water several hours earlier, and showed signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Bailey and Shiffler provided them with water and began a slow 6-mile hike out from Alamo Mesa towards park headquarters with the youth and the two women.

As evening approached the elder woman began to show more serious signs of heat exhaustion, and the decision was made to evacuate her via helicopter.

Chief Ranger Tom Betts coordinated the helicopter rescue with New Mexico State Police and the National Guard, and a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter was dispatched to Alamo Canyon.

The 78-year-old woman was airlifted directly to UNM Medical Center in Albuquerque in stable condition.

Bandelier Rangers Iffy Khan and Paul Weddle hiked in with more provisions for Bailey, Shiffler and the two remaining  hikers.

All made it safely to Frijoles Canyon near midnight.

More information about Bandelier National Monument is available by visiting the park website at or Facebook page at BandelierNPS, or calling the Visitor Center at 505-672-3861 x 517.


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