Authorities scouring Grand Canyon National Park today in search of a missing Salt Lake City couple who failed to return from a week-long trek in one of the park's most rugged areas said they remain confident the pair will be found alive.
"In this case, we're really optimistic," said Maureen Oltrogge, a spokeswoman for the Grand Canyon National Park. "These people are very experienced, and they would have been prepared for the type of hike they were undertaking."
Alan Humphrey, 39, and wife Iris Faraklas, 35, apparently embarked on the hike more than a week ago, and on Sunday Humphrey's mother reported to authorities that her son and daughter-in-law were "overdue" in returning from a hike somewhere in the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon rangers initially failed to find any record of permits for the hike under the last name Humphrey, but it eventually became clear that Faraklas generally used her maiden name, a fact Humphrey's mother had not passed along, Oltrogge said. Authorities looked again at the permits and found one under her name that began Saturday, May 17, and ran through Friday, May 23.
The permit indicated that the couple planned to hike the Royal Arch trail, a 45-mile route considered among "the more difficult hikes at the Grand Canyon," according to Oltrogge, and known for spectacular canyon views in the far western portion of the park.
Around 7 p.m. on Memorial Day, investigators found the couple's car parked at the South Bass trailhead. There was nothing "out of the ordinary" about the vehicle, Oltrogge said, and nothing to suggest that the pair had ever emerged from their hike.
On Tuesday morning the entire footprint of the hike was searched from the air, and ground teams began combing two separate trails by foot. Those efforts continued this morning, and a technical rope team was being briefed to join the search and help access particularly treacherous areas.
"We're looking for any sign," Oltrogge said, adding that they are interviewing hikers in the Royal Arch area as well as rafting guides who use the nearby rivers for trips in the off-chance that the couple hooked up with a rafting group. "You look at everything until you can rule it out."
Since their disappearance, weather conditions in the area have been characteristic of the region, with temperatures ranging from in the 50s at night to over 100 degrees during the day, with some precipitation.
Faraklas, described as 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 150 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes, is a research nurse in the burn unit at the University of Utah Hospital, a hospital spokesman confirmed to ABC News. Humphrey is 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 190 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. His profession is unclear.
The trailhead parking lot where the couple's car was found is the same one where a pair of brothers, Travis and Willard Twiggs, carjacked a vehicle on Monday, May 12, two days before both died in a murder-suicide after trying to elude authorities. Oltrogge said that in this case, nothing investigators have learned has given them any reason to believe that the couple became involved in foul play.
Because Humphrey and Faraklas are described as physically fit, experienced hikers, authorities are hopeful the pair may have been prepared to survive if they somehow got lost.