Utah couple missing in the Grand Canyon

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Whit Johnson reportingThe Grand Canyon is one of the most rugged places on earth, and The Royal Arch Route is one of the toughest hikes in the canyon. A Utah couple had a special permit for that area but should have returned by now. The fear is they're lost somewhere in the Grand Canyon.

So far, search efforts for Iris Faraklas and Alan Humphrey have been unsuccessful. Crews will continue looking for the couple Wednesday morning. Until then, friends and family wait anxiously for good news.

We spoke to the director of the burn unit at the University Hospital, which is where Iris works as a research nurse. During her time there, Iris has made a lot of close friends who are now very concerned for her well-being but optimistic that she will be OK.

Dr. Jeffrey Saffle, director of the Burn Trauma ICU at University Hospital said, "If anybody can get through a hardship in a very demanding environment like that, I think these folks can."

Friends say husband and wife Iris Faraklas and Alan Humphrey are avid outdoor enthusiasts. Their latest adventure began on May 17 with a challenging 45 mile, seven-day backpacking trip through an area of the Grand Canyon called the Royal Arch Route. The couple's hiking permits for the trip expired May 23, and they were supposed to meet up with family in Arizona on the 25th, but they never did.

Dr. Saffle says, "Although she described this very grueling trip in some detail, none of us had any worries about it because she just strikes you as the kind of person who can do whatever she wants." He adds, "We kind of regard ourselves as a family, and she's a very much beloved member of the burn unit family."

Iris is also active in local politics and charity events. She participated in the MS Walk in Salt Lake City this spring. "It would just be a tragedy if anything was to happen to her," Dr. Saffle said.

A spokesperson for Grand Canyon National Park says over the past few days crews have searched on foot and by helicopter. They did find the couple's car but still no sign of Alan and Iris. It's news close friends hope will change soon.

"We have a lot of employees in the burn center and a lot of people that come and go, but it's not an exaggeration to say she's really a unique person who has already made a real impression on everyone here," Dr. Saffle said.

Permits for hiking in the Royal Arch Route are only issued to very experienced hikers. The couple did have enough supplies to last them several days.

E-mail: wjohnson@ksl.com

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