A Prince George man said he’s lucky to be alive after getting stuck, alone, and lost on Yank’s Peak during an early season snowmobile ride.
“I thought I was gone,” said Blaine Lorntsen, who was rescued at 3 a.m. on Nov. 11 by members of the Williams Lake Powder Kings Snowmobile Club after he’d spent more than 14 hours attempting to survive the cold.
Lorntsen said he and a group of friends had planned to go sledding that day, however, he slept in and decided to attempt to find the group.
“I didn’t really know the mountain at all,” he said. “I’d been up once before.”
After searching all day for his friends, at around 4 p.m. Lorntsen said his sled got stuck. He tried everything to get it out, but was unsuccessful.
“I burned the belt [on my sled] and my hands were starting to get really cold,” he said.
“It was getting dark, the sun was going down, and I started panicking.”
He left his sled after he heard someone above his location, but wasn’t able to make contact. Things only got worse from there, he said.
“I lost my tracks and couldn’t find my sled,” he said.
“I was walking around and somehow got a text from a buddy. I said, call 911. He thought I was joking. I said: ‘Send help. Please call 911.’”
Hours went by and Lorntsen, starting to lose hope and getting colder by the minute, dug a hole in a tree well in an attempt to stay warm.
“I ripped my shirt apart to try to start a fire, but that didn’t work, then I ripped the pouch off my hoodie,” he said. “I had a fire for maybe an hour but it got tiring trying to find small branches or anything to burn.”
Unbeknownst to Lorntsen, WLPKSC members Riley Seibert, Nathan Snowball, Rick Seibert, Jason Hollett and Mark Snowball were already on the mountain searching for him after receiving a call from Central Cariboo Search and Rescue at roughly 6 p.m. about a rider alone and in distress on the mountain.
Armed with a satellite phone, two-way radios and snowmobiles, the Powder Kings began searching the northwest side of Yank’s Peak first, due to it being one of the only spots where cellular service exists.
“That threw us off,” said WLPKSC president Mark Snowball. “We went over there and Riley had his phone out and was checking where there was service.”
After eight hours of searching for Lorntsen with no luck the team was ready to travel back to the Yank’s Peak safety cabin to warm up.
“I saw some tracks while we were headed back,” Snowball said.
“I pulled up and thought I saw the black seat of his sled. I reached down to touch it and he jumped up.”
Snowball said Lorntsen was passed out, freezing cold and huddled over a smouldering fire in the hole he’d dug near the tree well.
“That was the happiest feeling in my life,” Lorntsen said. “I jumped out. I wouldn’t have lived, and I’d pretty much given up. I think I blacked out because I thought maybe I had been hallucinating about the text messages. I’m very thankful for that guy and that group.”
Lorntsen was taken to the WLPKSC safety cabin where he was warmed up by a fire, hot chocolate, granola bars and Gatorade before the group descended off the mountain.
Once the group arrived in Williams Lake Lorntsen was treated to a hot shower, breakfast and a warm bed thanks to the generosity of the Snowball family.
Snowball said the safety cabin — which has seen several improvements, repairs and more safety supplies over the past few years — is a blessing. He added this incident is a good reminder of how quickly things can go wrong when you’re not prepared to be in the backcountry.
“It’s a good wakeup for the beginning of the season,” he said.
“The result was excellent, and he’s really thankful, but people need to be aware and have some gear. The biggest thing is don’t be riding alone.”
Lorntsen echoed Snowball’s sentiments, and has since purchased multiple pieces of safety equipment.
“Never go by yourself,” he said.
“Never. I was praying like you wouldn’t believe.”
Inset photo caption: Blaine Lorntsen (right) was rescued on Yank’s Peak at 3 a.m. after being lost, alone, for roughly 14 hours on the mountain. Here, he catches up with one of his rescuers, Williams Lake Powder Kings Snowmobile Club director Rick Seibert Wednesday while travelling through the area.
Sledding safety tips to follow
1.) Never ride alone
2.) Backpack with shovel, probe and BCA Avalanche Beacon (know how to operate).
3.) Food and water (for one or two days), energy or candy bars
4.) Flashlight (L.E.D is recommended)
5.) Hand axe or saw
6.) Knife, nylon rope
7.) Plastic whistle
8.) Waterproof matches, candle, aluminum foil, firestarter
9.) Compass, GPS receiver, SPOT, In-Reach, Sat. Phone (know how to operate)
P: Prepare for the trip, consider terrain, location, weather, check avalanche warnings — use this information to prepare for ways to deal with them.
L: Locate the area you will be riding — familiarize yourself with the area using a map.
A: Assess your physical condition, equipment and safety rules. Use this info to help you decide whether the timing of the trip is good or not.
N: Notify someone about where you are going, whom you are going with and when you expect to return. It is a good idea to leave your specific route with a family member or friend.