Three BYU-Idaho students were rescued Sunday evening from the wind cave in Darby Canyon after being trapped behind four feet of solid ice. Simon Jones, 24 of Rexburg, Idaho, Nathan Smith, 22 of Mesa, Ariz., and Jarin Traxel, 21 of Los Angeles, Calif., were found uninjured.
According to a press release from the Teton County Wyoming Sheriff’s Office, dispatch received a call on May 12 at 5:02 a.m. from Dennis Tang of Rexburg, Idaho regarding his three friends who were overdue from a hike in Darby Canyon. Mr. Tang explained that his friends, all students at BYU-I were supposed to return the night before. He said they had gone to the wind cave in Darby Canyon to hike through the cave. When they did not return, he became concerned.
A Teton County Sheriff’s Deputy responded to the Darby Canyon trailhead and located a vehicle belonging to the three hikers. Teton County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team (TCSAR) were dispatched to Darby Canyon to begin a search for the trio. Although the three were believed to be hiking to the wind cave, the fear was that they may have triggered an avalanche en-route to the cave and were caught in it. TCSAR began searching for an avalanche by ground and by air, while at the same time sending a team to the cave.
A civilian pilot, Phil Horstman, flew over the area in his private plane and located a recent avalanche. However, TCSAR located evidence the three had entered the cave. TCSAR entered the cave and at 3:40 PM and after searching for about 45 minutes, located the three hikers trapped behind four feet of solid ice. For the next two hours, TCSAR worked diligently in freeing the three hikers who were found uninjured; they were cold and tired but otherwise unharmed. All were returned to their vehicle at the trailhead by 7:30PM.
There were 25 TCSAR volunteers that took part in the rescue operation. According to the TCSAR Facebook page, the group used ATV’s, snowmobiles, skis, avalanche gear, snowshoes, rope systems and caving expertise on the mission.