Tracy Granger, 56, was driving from Pasadena over the mountain to Littlerock during a time when there were sporadic bouts of heavy rain on Sunday. Her family became concerned when they hadn't heard from her since 6:30 p.m. They alerted authorities at about midnight.
A search of the freeway route found no sign of the Ford Ranger pickup truck. Officers tried her cell phone. AT&T data indicated she had taken the mountain road instead of the freeways as originally planned.
Search helicopters spotted impressions of tire tracks and then her truck at mile marker 10 early Monday morning. Granger's truck had tumbled 300 feet, and the wreckage was not visible from the road and barely discernible from the air. It was covered in the brush, which was then covered in snow that fell overnight.
"The car, you could tell, was pretty demolished. It had done several flips and rolls, and the roof was smashed most of the way in," said sheriff's deputy-paramedic Mark Desmarteau.
Granger was semiconscious but unable to speak as paramedics reached her. She endured temperatures that plunged to 34 degrees wearing a sweatshirt and thin mittens.
"She was either ejected from the vehicle or was able to crawl out a small portion of the driver's side window and apparently spent the night in the snow next to her vehicle," Desmarteau said.
Rescue crews hoisted her out of the truck and flew her to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena in critical but stable condition.
"It must have been horrendous being up there all night in that cold weather, and she hung on," Desmarteau said.