A husband and wife who were five days overdue on their return from a hike in a rugged stretch of the Grand Canyon were located yesterday evening by rescuers after an intense search effort.
A National Park Service search team found Alan Humphrey, 39, and his wife, Iris Faraklas, 35, around 5 p.m. Wednesday after the couple had spent more than a week hiking in one of the park's most rugged regions.
"The couple was found, tired but otherwise in good condition, on the Royal Arch route area," Shannan Markak, a park service spokeswoman, wrote in a release last night.
The Salt Lake City couple, described as experienced hikers, were evacuated to a helibase, where they declined medical treatment. "They were reported to be extremely happy to be back on the South Rim," according to the release.
The exact circumstances that prevented the pair from finishing their week-long hike on Sunday as planned remain unclear, but Markak told ABC News that authorities believe they somehow lost their bearings.
National Park Service rangers intend to interview them today. "I know people do have a lot of questions and a lot of curiosity about what happened," Markak said.
The joy can be seen on their faces in a pair of photographs released by the park service. In one, Humphrey and Faraklas, dressed in what appear to be jumpsuits provided by the rescue team, are shown walking from a helicopter toward awaiting family members. In the other, Humphrey embraces an unidentified family member while another looks on.
Authorities had been confident that the two had gotten off-course while hiking the park's Royal Arch trail, a 45-mile route considered among the more difficult hikes in the Grand Canyon, but would be found alive because of their combined experience in the outdoors.
The pair had been gone for nearly two weeks. 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, Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge said Wednesday. Authorities then found a permit under her name for a hike scheduled for Saturday, May 17, through Friday, May 23.
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.
Weather conditions had been characteristic of the region, with temperatures ranging from in the 50s at night to over 100 degrees during the day, with some precipitation — definitely survivable.
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 throughout Wednesday, and a technical rope team joined the search to help access particularly treacherous areas.
After the rescue, the National Park Service took the opportunity to stress safety tips for hikers eager to tackle the park's more strenuous terrain. "Like many of the routes in the Grand Canyon, completing this loop requires route-finding, canyoneering skills and traveling through areas with limited water," the spokeswoman wrote in the release.
The Park Service recommends that hikers leave detailed itineraries with family and friends, as well as a list of equipment that includes the type of footwear and gear they are using — bits of information that helped make the search for Humprey and Faraklas a success.
"They came out alive for a reason," Markak said. "They had friends who had pictures of some of the types of gear they used."