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20 rescue crewmembers work to free couple from Wyo. ice cave

Spencer Christiansen and his wife Jessica spent two days underground after becoming trapped in a Darby Canyon Ice cave

By FireRescue1 Staff

JACKSON, Wyo. — A couple was rescued by 20 volunteers who worked for hours to get them out of a cave they had been trapped in for two days.

Post Register reported that it took search and rescue volunteers 15 hours to save Spencer and Jessica Christiansen after they became trapped in a hole above a waterfall in the Darby Canyon Ice Cave.

The couple had made the trip for Spencer’s 31st birthday, and spent weeks researching and gearing up for the trip.

“A coworker said he’d been to the Wind Cave,” Christiansen said. “I did as much research as possible. I went to a sporting goods store to look for a map. I called Teton County, and they didn’t have one. Apparently maps don’t exist.”

On the day of their cave exploration, the couple told a family member to call for help if they didn’t call her by midnight. The family member called for help the next morning.

The Christiansens said they found a fixed rope when they became trapped and climbed it, but it turned out to be a dead end.

“When we figured out that wasn’t an exit, we thought for sure that we were going to run out of time and be dead,” Spencer said. “I don’t think we would have lasted through the night. We ate all our food and burned everything we could possibly burn. We burned a lot of different things like baseball caps, a backpack, gloves, knee brace and cards in my wallet.”

Spencer and Jessica spent their time trying different methods to stay warm, but said the mental toll was the most challenging.

“There are not a lot of ways to describe what we went through,” he said. “We had to fight off the claustrophobia and panic.”

Teton County Search and Rescue volunteers finally found the couple after searching the cave for hours.

“They heard us yelling their names, which is how we located them,” Phillip Fox said.

Fox free climbed and maneuvered through a hole after ascending the fixed rope to reach the couple.

“We pulled up some warm clothes and water and heat packs,” Fox said, “and did a quick patient assessment to make sure they were coherent. Once we got them warmed up a little bit, they were just ready to get out of there.”

The Christiansens were greeted by search and rescue personnel, who sang “Happy Birthday” to him.

“All this stuff brings tears to my eyes,” Spencer said.

TCSR Supervisor Jess King said the caves are mostly unmapped and mazelike, and are challenging for even the most skilled explorers.

“It’s a very technical and physically demanding endeavor,” King said. “The stream that flows through it can change where it flows, and rockfall from the ceiling happens every year, so you can get passages that open up that were never there before and some get closed off. It’s an active cave.”

King called the search “demanding.”

“We needed every single person who was there,” she said. “I’m just grateful we got to those people when we did.”