-- A Wyoming man who took his girlfriend on a weekend hiking adventure to propose to her instead had to leave her stranded nearly 12,500 feet up a mountain peak so that he could go for help because “we wouldn’t be able to survive another night.”
Blake Fuhriman, 23, of Sheridan, Wyoming, and Alissa DeVille, 26, were both rescued Wednesday after spending six days stranded on Black Tooth Mountain in the Bighorn National Forest with no food, little water and only the clothes on their backs in temperatures that sometimes reached negative 30 degrees.
“My plan was to climb to the peak and propose at the top,” Fuhriman, a college student, told ABC News today. “We ate breakfast around 9 a.m. Friday and set out to hike the peak with just our day pack and the clothes we were wearing.”
As Fuhirman and DeVille, an orthodontic assistant, hiked up the mountain, the terrain became increasingly dangerous, to the extent that they felt they could not turn back, according to Fuhriman.
“We thought, at the time, that our only option was to keep climbing up and climb down a different way,” he said.
Instead, the couple found themselves stranded on a narrow patch of land on the cliff. They melted snow in intermittent pockets of sunshine for water, went without food and used disposable items such as the cargo pockets off Fuhriman’s pants as kindling for fire.
Another one of the items the couple used as kindling was the now-empty ring box that had contained DeVille’s engagement ring.
“About 9 p.m., on Friday night we were sitting on the cliff ledge and pulled the ring out and said, ‘While I can’t get on my knee because I’m scared I’ll fall off the cliff, will you marry me?’" Fuhriman recalled. “And she said, ‘Yes.’”
“Every day we were up there, I asked her if she wanted to throw the ring off the cliff and she kept it on,” he said.
The couple, whose lone cell phone had no service and then ran out of battery power, attempted to make their way back down the mountain Saturday but were deterred by the terrain. Then, DeVille twisted her ankle on the climb back up.
By Monday, search and rescue officials had been alerted to the couple’s disappearance by their families and set out by foot and air to find them. The wind was so strong, however, that Fuhriman said a person could not hear from further than 50 feet away.
“They flew over us about 10 to 15 times total,” Fuhriman said of the search planes. “I had a purple jacket and a signal mirror to wave at them but they couldn’t see it, for whatever reason.”
Fuhriman used everything he learned in his four years as a U.S. Army 3rd Ranger Battalion member to keep them alive, but by Wednesday, he said, both he and DeVille were hallucinating and starting to feel the effects of hypothermia.
Fuhriman made the decision to leave DeVille alone on the cliff and climb down the mountain alone to search for help.
“When I said goodbye, I just felt awful leaving her there, but I knew if I didn’t we would die up there,” Fuhriman said. “I knew if I could get down, we could save us.”
Fuhriman made it safely down the mountain but took nearly three hours to walk less than a mile because he was so dehydrated, he said. He found a base camp set up by the Johnson County Sheriff's search team and showed them on a map where he had left DeVille.
“They finally found her but the wind was so strong they couldn’t hoist her out,” Fuhriman said. “They set up a climbing team and moved her to a different position on the mountain and then a helicopter crew hoisted her out.”
Fuhriman refused medical treatment but DeVille was taken to a local hospital where she was treated for her ankle injury and dehydration, and released.
The couple is now recovering at home and reflecting on all the people who came to their aid, including their friends and family who were aware of their itinerary and able to help direct authorities to their location.
“That’s the most important thing to being found -- sending an itinerary of where you’re going and then sticking to those plans,” Fuhriman said. “And there are not many flight crews that could have handled that wind. They were awesome.
“I know there were hundreds of prayer chains started for us,” he said.