Hikers' inspiring story of survival

August 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
An inspiring story of love and determination. Two lost hikers used their GPS creatively and survived

An inspiring story of love and determination
Sal Frias and Patti Giamoni's relationship began in Spanish class while attending high school in Millbrae. Although they had mutual friends, hung out together and felt a connection for one another, they never took the next step to date. It wasn't until two decades later that the couple reconnected on Facebook this past May.

Sal is a personal trainer in San Mateo while Patti teaches Spanish in North Carolina. After mentioning a hiking trip Patti took with her students in Peru during their first phone call, they decided to go hiking on Mount Shasta for their very first date.

They went for a night hike starting Friday, June 20th at 6:00 p.m. and at 12,000 feet, reached the top of the mountain the following morning at 7:00 a.m. In a matter of minutes, dry lightening and a freak storm hit the couple with winds blowing forcefully. With only one windbreaker and frozen water bottle between them, the couple became disoriented and lost their sense of direction.

Dusk began to fall and in an attempt to escape the storm, they started climbing down the mountain, but gradually fell into a state of hallucination from the lack of oxygen and freezing temperatures. At one point they both thought they were at a ski resort. Eventually, they found a place with cell phone reception and called 911. Unfortunately for them, the phone was losing power and the call was disconnected.

On a lucky whim, Patti's son called by accident. They immediately had him call 911 and with the GPS they had, they gave him their coordinates. Initially the authorities at Mt. Shasta did not believe him but soon they were able to trace Sal's cell phone and realized that in fact the couple was still on the glacier. At this point, they had a 30% - 40% chance of survival.

On the morning of Sunday, June 22nd it started to warm up. They continued to walk and while using their GPS, they were able to locate a railroad track that would take them another day to reach. They climbed all day Sunday through 10PM that night, exhausted and sleep deprived. In order to keep themselves warm, they took turns sleeping in three minute intervals while lying on top of each other.

They continued their journey the next morning and finally reached the rail road tracks on Monday night. After another grueling 7-8 mile walk, they came across a lumber yard that very same night at 11:30 p.m. They were able to find a lumber jack who was just leaving and after having him call 911, Sal and Patti were finally rescued.

Life after the survival
Patti and Sal plan to continue dating and to build their long distance relationship. They planned their second date for this weekend in, ironically, Mt. Shasta. But unlike last time, they will be joined by family and friends for a small hike to celebrate Sal's birthday this coming Friday.

Before the ordeal, Patti was on anti-anxiety medication and was unable to take them while trapped on the mountain. She experienced one anxiety attack during their hike, but it was not severe. Today she is no longer on anxiety medications and feels that this experience forced her to face all her fears. While she initially said that she would never hike again, she has a hiking trip planned for next summer at Machu Picchu, in Peru.

This was Sal's third time hiking and unlike Patti, he will not go on such an extensive hike again. However, he is committed to pursue a relationship with Patti and is making plans for the two of them to move out to a Wyoming ranch. He considers Patti his "other half."

The couple feels that it was not only because of their deep connection for one another they were able to survive this event, but also because of the people they love. Patti was motivated to keep at it so that she could drive her son to college on August 15th. She has two sons, 15 years old and 19 years old. This was a survival of two, but a united effort of many.


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