FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - A chance for free pizza turned into a cold and scary situation for a 30-year-old hiker Tuesday morning.
A rescue was not at all the intention of the business owner behind the challenge. Caleb Schiff, owner of Pizzicletta, said it was all voluntary, adding that when he asked people to climb to the top of Mt. Elden, he hoped they would check the weather and be prepared.
“We never want anyone to risk their life for pizza. It’s certainly not worth it,” Schiff said.
Luckily, it didn’t come to that for the hiker caught at the top of Mt. Elden during Tuesday’s snowstorm.
He told search and rescue crews with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, he was doing it for free pizza.
“We give away a lot of free pizza, which is OK,” Schiff laughed.
Schiff challenged people to meet at the top of Mt. Elden at 8:30 a.m. for a free meal later that day. Those who made it got a golden ticket as seen on the business’s Instagram account. The 21-day event was in line with the Giro D’Italia bicycle race and only one of several social challenges Schiff has organized over the years.
“In truth, what we really want is people to make great decisions about their health and be active,” Schiff said.
Schiff said Tuesday’s storm caught his climbing group by surprise, adding, “It escalated pretty quickly.”
Sgt. Aaron Dick, the search and rescue coordinator for the sheriff’s office, said the hiker was, “shivering heavily and probably at mild stages of hypothermia.”
It was a scary situation Dick and Schiff agreed could have been avoided.
“Nobody goes out intending to get hurt or get lost on hikes, so carrying some equipment to make themselves a little bit safer and make themselves more comfortable, in case an emergency happens,” Dick recommended.
“We always encourage people to not get in over their heads, to make smart decisions,” Schiff explained.
The hiker was taken to the lookout cabin at the top of the mountain and picked up by a friend once he warmed up.