A couple that went missing for nearly a week in a rough and remote corner of Grand Canyon National Park survived by keeping their wits about them and waiting to be found after they realized they were lost.
Alan Humphrey and Iris Faraklas planned to navigate the 45-mile Royal Arch route from May 17 through the 23rd. When they failed to arrive in Prescott, Arizona, as planned last weekend, they were reported overdue and the park began an aerial search.
The Salt Lake City couple had backpacked at the Grand Canyon before and was familiar with the rugged nature of the terrain and the changeable weather conditions. (Conditions during their 11 days in the canyon ranged from “temperatures in the 90s to hail and freezing,” according to Ms. Faraklas.) While they had never hiked the Royal Arch route, they had done research on the route and had sought the advice of others who had done the route.
The couple also wisely set specific dates when they planned to meet people after their hike; and they made sure that at least one person knew what they planned to do while they were at the Grand Canyon. Yet in spite of all of their preparations, on the last leg of their trip the couple overshot their exit route and attempted to reach the rim in the wrong side-canyon.
Eventually, they realized they were lost, and to a degree stuck, but they didn’t panic. Instead, they assessed their situation, developed a plan and made a commitment to stick with that plan no matter what. First, they decided to be prepared for up to a week on their own and rationed their one day of remaining food accordingly. Then, they found water and a source of shade and decided to stay put until help arrived or their meager supplies started to run out. Above all they made a decision to stick together.
The couple also shared the burden of decision-making. They kept track of each other’s condition physically, mentally, and emotionally. They kept each other on track. They stuck to the plan.
Park officials say these decisions played a large role in why the couple survived their ordeal, which ended May 28 around 5 p.m. when they encountered a ground team looking for them.
Few make it out of such an ordeal needing little more than a meal and good night’s sleep. In meeting with reporters, the two had a simple message: Getting lost in the Grand Canyon can happen to anyone, and if it happens to you, well, make a plan, hunker down, stick together, and wait for help.
During the search the park dispatched multiple ground crews as well as helicopter flight crews to search drainages and rim areas increasingly distant from the couple’s anticipated route. Additionally, a technical team from nearby Zion National Park was searching the lower Royal Arch Drainage using canyoneering techniques.
At about 5 p.m. on Wednesday a ground search team found the couple—tired, hungry, but otherwise in good condition—near the South Bass Trail in the Royal Arch route area.
“We couldn’t believe it,” said Patrick Gamman, a member of the team that located the couple. “After all of these days… We had been so worried!”