Two hikers missing on Mt. Shasta since Saturday night walked to safety in Weed just before midnight on Monday June 23. They held a press conference at the Weed Airport late Tuesday morning and said, among other things, that they had come to climb the mountain as part of their first date in 12 years.
After being lost and wandering on 14,162 foot Mt. Shasta for three days without sufficient food, water or shelter, Salvador Frias, age 41 of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Patricia Giamoni, 37 of Apex, N.C., walked into the shipping docks of Roseburg Forest Products in Weed late Monday night suffering from dehydration but with minimal injuries.
The two seemed to be in good spirits during a press conference Tuesday morning held at the Incident Command Post at the Weed Airport, where they answered questions about their ordeal and thanked local officials.
The former high school sweethearts, who came to Mount Shasta on vacation, set off Saturday, June 21 towards Mt. Shasta’s summit via the Bunny Flat Trailhead to attempt to ascended the mountain using the popular Avalanche Gulch route on the south side of the mountain.
Frias and Giamoni, who had lost touch of each other after high school, found each other over the Internet several months ago.
Following months of communicating via email and telephone, the two began a relationship and decided to meet, for the first time in 12 years, face to face in Mount Shasta.
Frias, who considers himself a fairly experienced mountain climber, and Giamoni, who, prior to Saturday had never climbed in her life, began their long ascent early Saturday morning.
The route is known as a relatively easy path to the top, however, when nearing the summit, the two found themselves caught in severe weather and were unable to descend the same way. With close to zero visibility and conditions worsening, they attempted to descend another way, Frias said.
After becoming lost and disoriented, Frias called 911 from his cell phone asking for help. The call was lost shortly after.
“We were caught in a total whiteout with winds blowing at what felt like over a hundred miles an hour,” Frias said during the press conference. “It was so bad I really didn’t know if we were going to make it. All we could do was try to stay on our feet, keep moving and keep talking to each other.”
Attempts by law enforcement officials to call back the cell phone were unsuccessful and the coordinates provided did not match the description of the location of the missing climbers, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department.
A two-day search and rescue operation was assembled with search teams from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California Highway Patrol and California Air National Guard.
An Air National Guard Blackhawk helicopter from Mather Air Force Base, Calif., equipped with infrared and night vision technology, arrived Sunday night and began night search operations, according to a US Forest Service press release.
Helicopter search operations continued throughout the day Monday. A Blackhawk helicopter inserted four U.S. Forest Service climbing rangers and four Siskiyou County Search and Rescue personnel near the summit to conduct searches in crevasses and snow banks at 13,000 feet and above, according to the Forest Service.
Additionally, search crews from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Posse stood watch at trailheads on the north and west side of the mountain throughout the night.
“There are no words to describe how terrifying it was to be out there not knowing what will happen.” said Giamoni. “Knowing that our friends and family were praying for us gave us the strength to keep going. We did a lot of praying up there a well. We’re just so thankful for everyone that helped us. We never lost hope that we would make it.”
When the couple made it out of the wilderness authorities transferred them to Mercy Medical Mount Shasta for evaluation and to be reunited with family.
“This was definitely quite an adventure,” said Frias. “I just didn’t expect it to turn out like this. That was sure quite a way to spend our first date in 12 years. But we’re here together and we’re already planning our future together.”
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department reported that it initially received a call at about 9:55 p.m. on June 21 from Frank Machado of North Carolina who reported that he had received a telephone call from his mother, 37-year old Patricia Dolores Giamoni of Apex, North Carolina, telling him she and a friend, Salvador Cervantes Frias, age 41 of Millbrae, California, had climbed Mount Shasta, high winds had come up, and they needed help.
Machado was able to provide one-half of the GPS coordinate showing latitude only, according to the Sheriff’s Department, which had just completed another rescue on the mountain and started planning for the latest report of the two missing hikers in trouble.
The Sheriff’s Department said two other search and rescue calls regarding Mount Shasta were received over the weekend.
On June 21 at about 3:05 p.m. the Sheriff’s Department was called to assist with a climber with “snow blindness” who was with a small group located at Lake Helen on Mount Shasta. The reporting party and U. S. Forest Service mountain rangers assisted the climber down to Bunny Flat.
At about 11:20 a.m. on June 22 the Sheriff’s Department received a report of a hiker with a broken leg on the west side of Mount Shasta. The CHP helicopter crew of H-16 located the injured hiker near Hidden Valley and flew the person to Mercy Medical Center in Mount Shasta for treatment.
Sheriff Rick Riggins and the personnel of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office expressed appreciation to the volunteers of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit, volunteer members of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Posse, the crews of the California Highway Patrol helicopters and the crews of the California Air National Guard and Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopters, personnel of U.S. Forest Service, to those providing mutual aid including three counties in Oregon, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, and Klamath County Sheriff’s Office, mutual aid from the Del Norte County and Amador County Sheriff’s Offices in California, the California Department of Transportation, the State Office of Emergency Services.