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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

From right: Brad Cameron, BCEHS superintendent of patient care delivery for Greater Victoria, with primary care paramedics Em Funk, Tyrone Trotter, Fiona Galvin and Peter Hill at the Leigh Road station. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore paramedics didn’t waver when faced with COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Emergency Health Services personnel are this year’s Courage and Bravery Award recipients

February is Black History Month. (Photo: Government of Canada)
Camosun College highlighting Black content with research guide during Black History Month

The collection includes a range of works by Black authors and creators

Ownership of SISȻENEM — also known as Halibut Island located east off Sidney Island — has transferred to W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council after The Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC) had purchased the island for $1.55 million. (The Land Conservancy/Submitted)
SISȻENEM (Halibut Island) transfers to W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council under historic agreement

The Land Conservancy purchased the 9.67-acre island for $1.55 million with help from unnamed donor

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
UPDATED: All B.C. Ferries sailings cancelled due to wind, weather

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

Amy Morrison was surprised to find a note on her windshield for parking on a public street with no restrictions in south Oak Bay where she works. (Amy Morrison Photo)
Oak Bay resident uses notes to claim street parking

‘You must have noticed, we park in front of OUR HOUSE,’ note writer says

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read