Polish newlyweds Magdalena Czarnecka and Michael Wangrat planned to take a full year for their honeymoon, first climbing Denali in Alaska, then trekking from Montana to New Mexico via the Continental Divide Trail before ultimately ending up in Central America. Instead, just 10 days into the epic trip, as Czarnecka ascended a ridge with Marek Paleski, her husband's cousin who had joined them for the climb, Paleski slipped. The climbers were roped together, but they weren't clipped into any of the aluminum pickets placed on the route for safety (Czarnecka tells the Anchorage Daily News they may have been in between two of them at the time, with their rope unable to reach the next one). Czarnecka tried to use her ice ax to stop the pair's slide, but she couldn't; they slid 1,000 feet before dropping into a crevasse.
Somehow, they just missed what could have been a fatal fall into a basin far below. The miracles continued: Czarnecka lost consciousness but regained it after 30 minutes or so and was responsive when rescuers finally reached the pair the next day. A guided climbing party that witnessed the fall alerted rangers, and Paleski set off a personal locator beacon to let rangers know it was a rescue effort, not a recovery effort. Rangers say it's a miracle Czarnecka survived. She and Paleski spent a long night trying to stay warm, and the next day, Paleski set out alone and found a rescue group. Czarnecka has been hospitalized two weeks and had surgery to repair some of the damage to her head and neck, and she and her new husband hope to return to Poland this week. Though their honeymoon ended up far from what they'd planned, "after this trip, we are stronger," she says. (Read more Denali stories.)