An explorer with a broken leg was pulled from the nation's deepest cave early Thursday after a four-day ordeal, yelling "Yee haw!" as she emerged.
"Oh, the stars are out tonight," Emily Davis Mobley sang after her aluminum and mesh stretcher poked up from the 1,565-foot-deep, 54-mile-long Lechuguilla Cave just after 1 a.m.She immediately telephoned her husband, William, in Schoharie, N.Y.
"This is your loving wife, coming up from the depths of the Earth to see you," Mobley said. "I'm wonderful. It was made a lot more of a big deal than it was," she told him.
The 40-year-old woman was taken to Guadalupe Medical Center in Carlsbad, her leg in a splint.
"She's in real good spirits, her vital signs real stable," nursing supervisor Katie Hardin said. Mobley's husband said, "She isn't exhausted. She's in great shape. She's an absolutely incredible person.
"I feel like calling everybody. I called her parents. I called one of our closest friends in Tokyo," he said. "I feel great."
The rescue effort drew some of the nation's top cave rescue experts to the cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Mobley, a 22-year cave explorer and expert in cave rescues, was about 1,000 feet down and two miles into the cave Sunday when an 80-pound rock she had been holding onto gave way and fell on her, breaking her left leg below the knee.
"This (rescue) was tougher than most," said Don Coons of Rutland, Ill., with the Lechuguilla Cave Project. "She was so far back in the cave, and there were a lot of obstacles."
Steve Sontag, an Albuquerque paramedic and member of the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Team, said: "We're just kind of riding out the top of the wave - just a real good feeling of success."
About 20 people welcomed Mobley at the top. She had earlier requested pizza, but when it was offered she asked that it be given to her rescuers "down below."
During the rescue, the woman hobbled when there was space to stand upright and was carried or slid on stretchers elsewhere. Rescuers used a network of ropes and pulleys to get her through a treacherous labyrinth of chambers, narrow passages, sheer rock faces and wide chasms.
A doctor with her in the cave gave her painkillers.
The rescue went more quickly than expected Wednesday night after moving in fits and starts since Sunday.
The undeveloped cave in a remote area of the park is closed to the public. The park service lets a limited number of experienced cave explorers in to explore and map it. Mobley was part of a mapping expedition.
"This cave rescue couldn't be run better," Mobley said on Wednesday. "I'm comfortable at all times. I'm not being treated like a package. I'm being treated like a person."
Rescuers moved her through the Rift and across a formation known as Glacier Bay by Wednesday evening. Earlier in the day, she was taken across a 40-foot-wide chasm known as Freakout Traverse, the longest in the cave.
Rescuer Mark Rosbrook said ropes were anchored to two boulders, and Mobley, who was on a stretcher attached to pulleys, was pulled across the chasm, which has a 100-foot drop.
Mobley told reporters she had been exploring caves since 1969, when a friend introduced her to spelunking.
"The first time I went caving I thought it was the most exciting thing I've ever done," she said. "Ever since then, caving has been a major part of my life."
Mobley said she hopes her leg will heal by summer so she can resume exploring Lechuguilla Cave.
"There's no way this is going to slow me down at all," she said.