What was supposed to be a romantic “engagement weekend” adventure to the top of Wyoming’s Black Tooth Mountain turned into a chilling six-day test of survival for a couple who got stranded on a cliff at 12,500 feet. To keep warm, the couple was forced to use the engagement ring box as kindling.
Blake Fuhriman, a 23-year-old former Army Ranger from Sheridan, Wyoming, thought it would be a great idea to take his girlfriend, Alissa DeVille, 26, on a hike to the top of Black Tooth Mountain in Bighorn National Forest, where he would pull out an engagement ring and surprise the love of his life with an unforgettable marriage proposal from the highest of heights.
Black Tooth Mountain as viewed from the summit of Cloud Peak. Image: Wikimedia Commons.
At 9 a.m. on Friday, August 29, the couple set out on a climb that was scheduled to take just a day. All they carried were their daypacks and the clothes on their backs. Fuhriman told ABC News that as they moved up the mountain and the terrain got more and more treacherous it became clear they could not return via the route they came. Fuhriman, who honed his survival skills while serving in the U.S. Army, was betting that once they hit the summit, they could choose a safer path for their descent.
Instead of finding the summit, however, the couple ended up stranded on a narrow patch of land near a cliff.
Even though they were forced to spend an unintended frigid night on the ledge, Fuhriman still went through with his marriage proposal.
“About 9 p.m., on Friday night we were sitting on the cliff ledge,” Fuhriman told ABC News. “I pulled the ring out and said, ‘While I can’t get on my knee because I’m scared I’ll fall off the cliff, will you marry me?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’”
On Saturday, the couple attempted to make their descent, but the terrain proved too dangerous. On their way back up, DeVille twisted her ankle, forcing them to stay put and hope for a rescue. The couple was unable to call for help because of poor cell service, at first, and then a depleted phone battery.
With freezing evening temperatures and no food or water, Fuhriman and DeVille used the few resources they had available to survive. They melted snow for water and scavenged for kindling. Among the things they burned were the cargo pockets off Furhriman’s pants and the empty box that held DeVille’s engagement ring.
By Monday, search-and-rescue officials, along with the couple’s friends and relatives, had been alerted to the emergency and set out to find them.
Fuhriman said that he saw search planes going overhead 10 to 15 times, but he and his fiancée were not seen.
Fuhriman told ABC News that, by Wednesday, the couple was hallucinating and suffering from the effects of hypothermia.
Throughout the ordeal, Fuhriman and DeVille remained committed to each other and their relationship. Said Fuhriman, “Every day we were up there, I asked her if she wanted to throw the ring off the cliff and she kept it on.”
Now six days into the ordeal and fearing they wouldn’t be able to survive another night, the couple decided that Fuhriman would make the descent on his own, while leaving the injured DeVille behind.
“When I said goodbye, I just felt awful leaving her there, but I knew if I didn’t we would die up there,” Fuhriman said. “I knew if I could get down, we could save us.”
Three hours later, exhausted and dehydrated, Fuhriman had found a base camp manned by the Johnson County Sheriff’s search team, which included Civil Air Patrol, the Army National Guard, and volunteers from Johnson, Washakie and Sheridan counties. DeVille was soon rescued and taken to a local hospital to treat her injuries.
The couple now shares an engagement proposal story that will be one for the ages.