Couple gets trapped in ice cave, burns hair to survive

They escaped with their lives — by a hair.

A resourceful couple trapped in an ice cave in Wyoming found a way to survive long enough to be rescued.

Spencer Christiansen and his wife Jessica burned everything they had with them to stay warm in the Darby Canyon Ice Cave, including clumps of hair.

“You know you're headed down to your death and they found us just right before we had to burn the last of what we had left to survive a few more hours,” Jessica Christiansen told ABC's “Good Morning America” on Wednesday. “We knew we only had about an hour or two before we would've died.”

The Idaho couple, both experienced climbers, said they adequately prepared for the trip with a plan to stay in the cave for a few hours on Saturday. They even told relatives to call for help if they did not return the following day.

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A scuba diver measures the length of Sac Aktun underwater cave system as part of the Gran Acuifero Maya Project near Tulum, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico January 24, 2014. Picture taken January 24, 2014.

(Herbert Mayrl/Courtesy Gran Acuifero Maya Project (GAM)/Handout via REUTERS)

A scuba diver measures the length of Sac Aktun underwater cave system as part of the Gran Acuifero Maya Project near Tulum, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico January 24, 2014. Picture taken January 24, 2014.

(Herbert Mayrl/Courtesy Gran Acuifero Maya Project (GAM)/Handout via REUTERS)

A scuba diver looks at an animal skull at Sac Aktun underwater cave system during exploration as part of the Gran Acuifero Maya Project near Tulum, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico February 12, 2014. Picture taken February 12, 2014.

(Jan Arild Aaserud/Courtesy Gran Acuifero Maya Project (GAM)/Handout via REUTERS)

Scuba divers tour an authorized area of Sac Aktun underwater cave system as part of the Gran Acuifero Maya Project near Tulum, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico January 24, 2014. Picture taken January 24, 2014. 

(Herbert Mayrl/Courtesy Gran Acuifero Maya Project (GAM)/Handout via REUTERS)

A scuba diver measures the length of Sac Aktun underwater cave system as part of the Gran Acuifero Maya Project near Tulum, in Quintana Roo state, Mexico January 24, 2014. Picture taken January 24, 2014. 

(Herbert Mayrl/Courtesy Gran Acuifero Maya Project (GAM)/Handout via REUTERS)

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That move may have saved their lives. They got lost, thanks to what they called "incorrect information." They believed they were near death when they were rescued on Sunday, which happened to be Spencer's birthday.

“Where we found them they were 25 feet up in a small hole or cavern and one of our team members had to ascend up a rope to get to them, do an assessment on them, [and] build an anchor to help them repel out of that spot,” rescue volunteer K.C. Bess told ABC News. “They were starting to really shiver a lot, shaking, and showing some signs of hypothermia.”

A local law enforcement official told ABC News that only expert explorers should consider tackling the cave, which he likened to a maze.

“The cave is a series of large caverns and tight crawls and there are areas where you are literally on your hands and toes trying to squeeze through and then that connects to some larger caverns as well,” Teton County Undersheriff Matt Carr told ABC News. “There is a lot of running water, ice cold water, running throughout there that you have to cross to get in.”

The young couple said they were fearful during the ordeal that they would never see their 1-year-old daughter again.

“It's really scary to think you're leaving a child with no parents and no way out," Jessica told ABC News. "It's really cold and it's really scary to face your death for sure. The scariest part it got to was when Spencer was scared. I had total faith in him the whole time to get me out of there, but when I saw how scared he was I knew it was the end for us.”

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