A man and woman were lost and hypothermic Sunday when rescuers reached them in the Darby Canyon Ice Cave.
The young Idaho Falls couple had been in the cave system for almost two days.
“They were soaking wet and shivering,” Teton County Undersheriff Matt Carr said. “They had burned their backpacks and gear to keep warm.”
Teton County Search and Rescue was called at 7:30 Sunday morning for the overdue party.
“They left their one-year-old with Grandma and said if they weren’t back by midnight to call for help,” Carr said.
The man, 31, and his wife, 24, left Idaho Falls at 7 a.m. Saturday to explore the caves.
The grandmother ended up waiting and calling for help Sunday morning.
“We sent teams to both sides to look over the drops,” Carr said, “because that’s usually where people get stranded.”
But rescuers saw no sign of the couple, so they geared up for a through-rescue.
“We had teams going through, and they could smell smoke,” Carr said. “They eventually noticed a fixed rope coming down near a waterfall.”
It took a rescuer about 45 minutes to climb the rope through the waterfall, where he found the shivering couple.
That was about 9 p.m., eight hours after rescuers started searching, according to reports.
“The couple was stuck and unable to move,” Carr said. “They had gotten soaking wet in this waterfall.”
The two had burned everything they had to keep warm.
“They could barely walk,” Carr said.
The woman had fallen, and the man had a previous knee injury that was flaring up. Rescuers helped them out of the cave around 11 p.m. Sunday and used horses to carry them back to the Darby Canyon trailhead.
The caves are mazelike and mostly unmapped, Carr said, and people aren’t encouraged to enter them unless they are experienced spelunkers.
A well-prepared party was stuck in the same cave last month and eventually found its way out but took much longer than expected.
Search and rescue personnel train in the caves every summer because the chances of hikers becoming lost or stuck in them is high.“It’s very confusing and takes some serious route-finding,” Carr said previously. “It’s not recommended for anyone who doesn’t have cave experience.”