Blaine Penner survived an avalanche in Norns Range. Photo: Blaine Penner

Blaine Penner survived an avalanche in Norns Range. Photo: Blaine Penner

Kootenay man survives avalanche and lives to tell the tale

Blaine Penner accidentally stepped out onto a cornice, triggering avalanche

“It’s not every day you fall off a mountain and live to tell the tale,” says Blaine Penner of the experience that left him looking death in the face on a West Kootenay mountain.

Penner headed out with friends on the morning of Feb. 5 for a day of snowmobiling in the Norns Range north of Castlegar. They drove up Lady Bird Road out of Pass Creek and spent several hours having fun on their sleds.

The experienced group had checked avalanche conditions before heading out and finding them to be “considerable” decided to stick to what they considered “safe zones”.

Shortly after 2:00 p.m. Penner and his friend paused for a break and Penner got off his sled and walked out to the edge of what he thought was a ridge. Turns out he was confused about the location and discovered he was actually standing on a cornice of snow.

Penner saw a crack and felt the ground beneath him shift as the cornice broke off.

“I knew it was already too late,” said Penner, so he instantly reached for the cord on his avalanche airbag.

By the time he hit the ground about 50 feet below, the airbag had fully deployed. From that point, Penner continued to ride the top of an avalanche down the mountain.

“It starts to pull me under into it and I know I’m getting buried under the snow, but I can feel my airbag popping me up,” said Penner.

“I was doing everything I could to keep my head upright.”

Eventually, Penner says he just accepted the fact that he was going to die.

“I had to fully surrender to accepting that I could go over a 1000-foot cliff and die at any moment. I had to make peace with it.”

But Penner decided that even though he was accepting the inevitable, he was going to fight it with all his might for as long as he could. He says his brain began to process what was going on and soon his thoughts became more of a litany of scenarios — I hope I don’t land on a rock, I hope I don’t land on my head, I hope I don’t break my neck.

As he tumbled downwards, he kept fighting to keep his head up, always looking for a bit of light.

When Penner finally came to a stop, there was a moment where he thought he must have died since he had just surrendered that there was no other way the journey would end.

But then, his friend’s voice came screaming out of the radio, calling his name.

He laid back and let his mind go for just a minute.

“You are in total disbelief after going through something like that,” he said.

Penner got up, gave himself an assessment and determined that the only thing wrong with him was a charlie horse.

“I got on the radio to Nate, told him not only was I alive, but that I was completely uninjured,” said Penner.

At that point he had travelled almost 3000 feet down the mountain.

Penner told his friend to bunker down — he was going to start hiking back up.

Meanwhile, a sledder from a different group had already called it a day and returned to his home around Slocan Park. But he had forgotten to turn off his radio. He overheard the commotion and conversation between Penner and his friend and offered assistance. The man named Jesse called Penner’s friends and family and Castlegar Search and Rescue was notified of the situation.

“I knew I was in danger of a second avalanche,” said Penner.

“The smartest thing to do probably would have been to sit and wait for the helicopter — but I’m not that person. I challenged myself to hike myself out of the situation that I put myself in.”

The climb to the top took him four hours and he could just see the orange glow of the sunset when he got there.

Penner says there’s some lessons to be learned from the experience and wants to share them with others.

“I made one complacent choice — if I had made two, it would have cost me my life,” says Penner.

“I kept my helmet on, I had my backpack on, I had my trigger out for my airbag, I had a charged radio.”

Penner’s message to others: buy the gear, wear your gear and know how to use it.

“Without it, I wouldn’t be here.”

Avalanchekootenay

 

Blaine Penner survived an avalanche in Norns Range. Photo: Blaine Penner

Blaine Penner survived an avalanche in Norns Range. Photo: Blaine Penner

Blaine Penner survived an avalanche in Norns Range. Photo: Blaine Penner

Blaine Penner survived an avalanche in Norns Range. Photo: Blaine Penner

Blaine Penner survived an avalanche in Norns Range. Photo: Blaine Penner

Just Posted

Department of Oceans and Fisheries has announced as of July 19 chinook salmon is not to be fished in certain areas in BC tidal waters until July. Spring chinook salmon are seen swimming. (Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Chinook Salmon limits set to zero in some BC tidal waters

DFO implement restrictions to protect Chinook Salmon

Richard Green and Alex Campbell stand in solemn reflection of the survivors and victims of the residential school system on May 30, in Prince Rupert National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 is a time to reflect on the sacrifices and honour the contributions made by First Nations, Inuit and Metis of Canada. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Reflecting on National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 21 is to celebrate the contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis to Canada’s culture

Mark Perry in concert at the old Driftwood School (Marty Clemens photo)
Mark Perry releases new single ahead of Northwest album.

“Golden Spruce” tells the story of a forester who cut down an old-growth Sitka Spruce on Haida Gwaii

Five rehabilitated grizzly bears were released this month into the Bella Coola area. The Northern Lights Wildlife Society will also be delivering 36 black bears to areas across the province where they were previously found. “They’re ready to go and they’re already trying to get out,” says Angelika Langen. “We feel good when we can make that possible and they don’t have to stay behind fences for the rest of their lives.” (Northern Lights Wildlife Society Facebook photo)
Suspected methamphetamine and scale seized by police. (Terrace RCMP photo)
Terrace RCMP seize guns, ammo, suspected narcotics

Man released after court appearance

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read