Couple That Was Lost In Grand Canyon National Park Had Good Survival Plan

The Salt Lake City couple that was lost for five days in the Grand Canyon survived their ordeal by keeping their wits about them. Royal Arch photo by Gonzo fan2007 via flickr.

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!”

Comments

This is one smart couple. Hopefully they will share what they learned so that others can be equally prepared if it ever happens to them.

I am so impressrd with the resiliance of this couple ...in the 1950s Dad took us camping at the Canyon and on several Indian reservations where he had friends and he taught us pretty much the same things...always let someone know your plans and check in with them as soon as you return and let them find you,wandering around creates panic and decreases survival. his couple should be a lesson to us all,

I am so glad the two of you were found. Congrats!

It sure helps to have a good contour map and know how to read it. Another important skill is to keep track of where you are as you progress along your route based on the contour map and key markers like cliffs, peaks and drainages. The Grand Canyon is a great place to apply this skill to keep from getting lost and to get back to where you need to be. But, in heavy vegetation, clouds and mist like the Cascades or Great Smokies, this technique is not as reliable. I wonder if this couple had such a map and map skills. A GPS is great too, but the batteries on a map never go dead and satellites are never blocked by cliffs and clouds.

Glad to hear they were alright. I wanted to go to Royal Arch this year but after going to Monument Creek via the Hermit Trail I know I need some more back country hikes before I try the Royal Arch out, very smart to stay at a water source.

Brilliant story of survival of two wise people. They should tell everyone so that their message of sticking together and not moving around wasting energy should be heard. Also, the fact that they had pre-arranged meetings with people after who knew to notify the authorities was smart. You are truly survivors.