The incredible story of how two hikers and a dog managed to survive a mountain blizzard in subzero temperatures with the help of an American flag features tonight on ABC’s series 20/20: In an Instant.
Kenny Pasten and Tiffany Finney were trying to climb the 11,500ft San Gorgonio Mountain in Southern California with his dog RexiTron in December 2015 when the weather suddenly turned from sunny blue skies to whiteout blizzard conditions.
Army veteran Pasten said: “It got really dark, really cold, really fast. The weather just hit us in the face like razor-plates.”
He and Finney, of Costa Mesa, CA, then dug a foxhole to shelter in with Rex and used the flag — which Pasten had hoped to fly at the top of the mountain — to add the protective layer between themselves and the elements.
They survived a night huddled together in their makeshift shelter, but in the morning Finney was suffering badly from hypothermia and drifting in and out of consciousness.
Pasten decided to venture out, leaving Rex with Finney to keep her warm, and climbed higher up the mountain until he finally managed to get phone reception.
He then sent a desperate message with his GPS coordinates to rescuers, managing to do so moments before his phone’s battery died.
Rescuers told how Finney was half an hour from death when they found her crawling on her hands and needs in the snow.
She and Pasten both suffered bad cases of frostbite and hypothermia, and she lost a finger from the cold, but amazingly the pair and Rex all survived.
In a heartwarming twist, while they were recovering an experienced hiker and his son then found the “still-frozen” flag — which Pasten had received for being an Honor Guard serviceman — and took it to the top of the mountain to complete its intended journey.
Watch Pasten and Finney recalling their incredible story in the footage below…
20/20: In an Instant airs tonight at 8/7c on ABC.