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A 30-year-old man has been freed after he fell about 40 feet in a rock cavern south of Collingwood Saturday. The rescue effort took more than 13 hours and involved rescue crews from Barrie, Toronto and the OPP.

Seth Rowe is an experienced outdoorsman who knows the caves and trails near his Collingwood, Ont.-area home well, but when the father of two still wasn't back from his Saturday morning hike by late afternoon, his wife knew something was wrong.

First, Jamie Murray tried his cellphone, but it went straight to voice mail. Then she went looking for him, but had no luck. Finally, with less than an hour to go before sunset and fear setting in, her phone rang.

Mr. Rowe had been found trapped 12 metres underground in a narrow rock crevice – so deep that the stone pinning him in place was coated with ice and snow. Two other hikers exploring the Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area had stumbled across him at about 8 p.m. that evening.

"They took a wrong turn thankfully. And they went the wrong way. I guess Seth heard them. He called [out], and the guy heard him," said Ms. Murray, 24, from her husband's hospital bed.

By the time rescue workers pulled Mr. Rowe from the earth around 10 a.m. Sunday, he'd been in the ground for more than 22 hours, wedged in a space about eight inches wide in total darkness.

Emergency crews from Barrie, Toronto and the local Clearview Fire Department had worked through the night. A team from Toronto Fire Services was lowered head first into the cave and chipped away at the rock with an air chisel hammer. The rescuers were able to lower Mr. Rowe some water, granola bars and blankets using a rope. They also brought in heaters and pumped warm air down into the crevice. Meanwhile, a specialized mining rescue group from Sudbury raced toward the park under police escort, in case the other crews weren't able to get at Mr. Rowe.

Ms. Murray said she still doesn't know exactly what happened. Her 30-year-old husband is "quite battered" and "out of it," and they haven't had a chance to talk things through.

From her understanding, he climbed into the crevice around noon Saturday but slipped and flipped over somehow, sliding into the hole.

"It was terrifying. I can't imagine what he went through," she said. "We're local to the area. He knows what he's doing. It's just a freak accident … It was just an out-of-the-ordinary thing that he [went climbing] without his friends."

Clearview fire got the call at 8:22 p.m. The rescue team met Ms. Murray at the park and then spent about half an hour trying to locate the cave, because the hikers couldn't pinpoint their location. The rescuers found the spot just before dark.

The cave itself is on an angle, Clearview chief Colin Shewell said. Vertically, Mr. Rowe was 12 metres down, but horizontally he was another six metres off to one side. It was impossible to see him from the surface, Ms. Murray said.

Chief Shewell said it's incredible anyone was able to hear him call for help.

"He's a lucky man," he said.

During the rescue, the crews lit a bonfire to keep those on the surface warm. The hikers who found Ms. Murray's husband stayed with her throughout the night.

Mr. Rowe spent most of Father's Day at the hospital as a precautionary measure but was released in the evening.

"He's severely scratched and banged up, but otherwise good," Ms. Murray said.

And how long will it be before she lets him go hiking again?

"That's entirely up to him," she said.

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