A rescue team used chisels and drills to loosen 24-year-old Craig Douglas from his underground trap. Douglas, of Medford, Mass., was pulled to the surface Monday.
Officials said Douglas appeared to suffer only scrapes and perhaps a sprained knee. Douglas was taken by ambulance to a hospital Monday morning, Schoharie County Sheriff John Bates said. He was in stable condition.
Spelunkers came from several states to help rescuers free Douglas from the cave. One caver explained why the sport is so exciting to enthusiasts.
"With a cave like this, it's like climbing a peak," one man told Correspondent Mark Bardack of CBS Schenectady Affiliate WRGB-TV. "You're just doing it for the challenge."
Douglas was stuck in a narrow crevice - about 18 inches wide in its narrowest part - for more than 24 hours until rescuers freed him Sunday night. He slept several hours overnight in a small chamber about the size of a compact car before rescuers began the arduous task of bringing him up 100 feet to the mouth of the little-used cave about 25 miles west of Albany.
Rescuers started Douglas toward the surface at about 5:15 a.m. Monday. He was smiling as he was pulled from a manhole-sized hole in the ground nearly 4 and 1/2 hours later. A rescuer could be heard joking with him, telling him, "Craig, you've got my jumpsuit on. Don't get it muddy." Another rescuer said, "Finally, it's over."
"This is only the second or third rescue I've seen in 14 years," Bates said.
Douglas was passing through a tunnel 10 inches wide by 18 inches high around 2:30 p.m. Saturday when he became lost and dropped into a small slot, pinning his right thigh between a rock and the cave floor.
For hours, rescuers took turns lowering themselves into the narrow opening one at a time to drill and chisel away at the rock, finally getting Douglas free about 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Douglas was then lowered into the larger chamber of the cave.
"The fact that he's not stuck makes a world of difference," said fellow spelunker Morrie Gasser, who helped with the rescue.
Douglas had been caving in the area since Friday with his sister and two friends. Officials described them as experienced cavers.
Despite the 55-degree temperatures underground and tomb-like conditions, officials said Douglas was remarkably brave during the rescue effort and had even joked with rescuers. They passed him food and water through cracks in the cave.