The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

They went hiking to get closer to God. Instead, they had to be rescued.

The women’s group was filming a reality TV show, ‘Bad Girls Gone God,’ while on a religious retreat

Rescuers transport one of the eight women who suffered from heat sickness Thursday while hiking at Camelback Mountain near Scottsdale, Ariz. They were part of a group of about 15 women at a religious retreat filming a reality TV series titled “Bad Girls Gone God.” (KSAZ)
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Tatiana Robinson and about 15 other hikers thought they’d brought enough water to venture into the Arizona wilderness Thursday morning and complete their mission: get closer to the Almighty for their reality TV series.

The temperature was 91 degrees at 7 a.m. when they struck out on the 2½-mile Echo Canyon Trail along Camelback Mountain, near Scottsdale. It rose to nearly 97 degrees at 9 a.m., and by noon, it had shot up to 106.

It got even hotter, with temperatures topping 108 that day. With no shade to hide from the unrelenting sun, Robinson realized they were in trouble.

“I started getting really, really dizzy,” she told KSAZ, “and then after that, it was like, ‘No, we can’t do this.’ ”

Robinson was part of a group of women from around the country who rallied in Phoenix for an annual religious retreat, according to the Phoenix Fire Department. One of the women, Keisha Carter, told KNXV they were filming a reality show titled “Bad Girls Gone God.” During the gathering, the women planned to worship together and test their physical and spiritual limits — all while capturing the experience for the show.

“We started doing a women’s retreat every year, where we get together,” Jasmin Hunter told KSAZ. “We praise, we worship, we do different activities that not only test our physical [side], but they test our spiritual as well.”

On Thursday morning, that meant tackling Echo Canyon Trail. The outdoors website AllTrails describes the trek as beautiful but adds that it’s generally “considered a challenging route.” It’s rocky, and some sections require hikers to scramble — a more intense type of climb involving the use of one’s hands and feet — all while offering no shade. Cholla Trail, the only other path to the summit of Camelback, is much the same.

“Both trails are strenuous and subject to extreme heat, so hikers suggest bringing plenty of water as numerous people have endured heat strokes,” according to AllTrails, which notes that Cholla is indefinitely closed.

Hiking Camelback Mountain is tough, so much so that there’s a community service Facebook group dedicated to educating people about preparing for the trek. The group’s name: “Please Don’t Die Or Have to Be Rescued On Camelback Mountain, Arizona.”

By midafternoon, the group had posted about Robinson and her compatriots: “Unfortunately they didn’t see this page before they decided to do this hike.”

The hikers admitted to authorities that they didn’t do their research before starting the trek. The result: Eight suffered what the Phoenix Fire Department described as “heat related issues,” and three had to be taken to a hospital.

One of the eight was Kristen Livingston: “I barely made it down. I had an episode in the car — almost passed out. It was a lot,” she told KSAZ.

Robinson told KSAZ she feared they wouldn’t survive. She credits not dying to luck — and another form of invisible intervention.

“God,” she said, “was definitely with us.”

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