After Seeing a Tourist Die from Dehydration, This Avid Hiker Now Climbs Over 2,000 Feet a Day to Hand Out Free Water

When Mother Nature’s dangerous heat sneaks up on unaware hikers, this resourceful local comes to the rescue.

Man gives water to hikers on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona.Matthew Cohen/
A death on the mountain motivated Scott Cullymore to help hikers.

Even if you’ve never been to Phoenix, you know this about the place: It’s hot. From June to September, the temperature can easily eclipse the century mark. But that doesn’t stop hikers from attempting the 1.3-mile trek to the top of the city’s famed Camelback Mountain. Signs warn that the trail is “extremely difficult.” If you continue, a posted checklist suggests at least a liter of water per person. And if you’re still not deterred, another sign farther up declares: “If you’re halfway through your water, turn around!”

Unfortunately, many people do not heed the warnings. Fortunately, Scott Cullymore does. When he’s not running his carpet-cleaning company in nearby Mesa, the 53-year-old Cully­more can be found hiking up and down Camelback a couple of times a day, doling out cold bottles of water to worn-out hikers. He has helped hydrate so many hikers that he has earned a heavenly nickname: the Water Angel. “I’d like a more manly name, but, you know,” he told ­

“They underestimate the mountain and overestimate what they can do.”

Cullymore was on Camelback Mountain one day in 2015 when a British tourist died after being lost for nearly six hours in the July heat. That experience inspired him to start helping people caught unaware by ­Arizona’s unforgiving version of Mother Nature. “They underestimate the mountain, and they overestimate what they can do, and they get themselves in trouble,” he told the Arizona Republic. If a hiker has a flushed face and is not sweating ­anymore, ­Cullymore says, he reaches into his insulated orange backpack, pulls out a frosty bottle, and hands it to the person. It’s nothing for him to go through eight waters—which he pays for himself—in one lap up and down the mountain. “It’s misleading that we’re in the middle of the city. You can die up here, and no one would know.”

One hiker who availed himself of the proffered water agrees. “You think you know the heat, but then you get out here in the desert and it surrounds you like a blanket,” said Austin Hill, who was hiking with a high school friend. They were lucky, he said, pointing to Cullymore. “We ran into this Good Samaritan here.” And with that, the Water Angel goes in search of another hiker in need.

Next: This man risked his life to save his neighbor from a burning building.

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