Words:: Jeremy Hanke
This is a continuation of Jeremy Hanke’s story of survival in a mass burial. Part 1 can be Found Here.
The days after being buried in an avalanche, were just about the same as the days before being buried in an avalanche. Life just must move forward no matter what trauma finds you.
Flying out the day I was buried I had already begun the process of steeping forward, trying to tuck that trauma into my back pocket. I headed home to regroup my thoughts. After spending some time with my loved ones I made the choice to get back on the snow. I grabbed a new sled and headed back out into the mountains two weeks later.
I am not sure how to explain the feelings and thoughts that have gone through my head each and every day as I head back into avalanche terrain. However, I do know that when you have come that close to losing your life, you become very analytical to every little choice you make in avalanche country. From the look in someone’s eye to the change in the weather, my next few years were surrounded a day of bliss here, to a day of terror there. But after many years of continued hard riding my comfort started to come back.
There are so many factors that have gotten me to the point that I am today. So many days spent in my head analyzing every situation I found myself in, it was like walking on eggshells.
I would analyze every single risk five times to teach myself to manage it the best way possible so I could feel comfortable again. Like anything in the backcountry I couldn’t build my confidence back up by myself, it took all of my riding partners. My path would lead me to meet one particular riding partner, who after their help over four long years I finally enjoyed a season not riding in absolute terror.
I cannot begin to tell you at this point in my life how thankful I am that I am still out riding all the time. For me, and most likely all of us, it is the one constant in my life that gives me a good balance and I would like to thank everyone that has put time into rebuilding that confidence THANK YOU so very much. It’s like you gave me my life back.
Amazing eyes, great hair and a smile you can see from the back of the room. After meeting at a party in Revelstoke, BC we chatted about our passion for the mountains, the dangers of avalanches, and the challenges the CAA was having reaching out to the snowmobile community. That meeting with Wren McElroy would prove to be the inspiration behind me getting involved with the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA).
Having spent a long time thinking about our previous chat, I left a twelve year job that same season and had another chance run in with Wren. I had lost a friend when I was younger and similar to Johnny in our avalanche accident, he too had left a two week old baby behind as well. This had been on my mind since I chatted with Wren and I had thought a lot about the man that lost his life, the child that lost his father, and the women he left behind.
I had watched what my friend’s death had caused to his family and friends and related to them so much. Wren’s humility, patience, open mind and non-judgmental attitude was the final thing I needed to be pushed to getting involved.
I was to speak about the day I was buried in an avalanche and had no idea the amount of emotion I had held back over the years.
I had never ever wanted to speak in front of a crowd, but it was the first thing she offered for me to help reach out to sledders by connecting with Canadian Avalanche Associations members. Any of you that know Wren, know you do not say no to a smile that lights up a room.
Soon I found myself attending the CAA annual general meetings in Penticton, BC spending the week there on my own dime. I kept telling myself I was doing this for an assortment of reasons. Waiting most of the week I was so nervous that there was only a few other snowmobilers involved with this community and I felt very out of place even though I had an extensive snowboarding background. I must commend all the sledders that had been doing outreach for years as there were few in a sea of skiers.
I was so nervous to talk in front of such a large group; this was so outside my usual scope of things. But the time came to jump and with the help of Wren I was able to choke down my nervousness. I was to speak about the day I was buried in an avalanche and had no idea the amount of emotion I had held back over the years, so funny to me that I would let that come out for the first time in front of a room full of people.
I guess I was there just as much for my own therapy. But the response I received from the crowd I new that it was all worthwhile. I must thank everyone in that room that day, as the comfort that I felt from everyone is the only reason I am able to carry on to do that same talk today.
Spending that week with the Canadian Avalanche Association members was a pivotal moment in my life. I felt like most of the other people present, were there to make a difference in someone else’s life. I felt like I would be able to help my fellow snowmobilers that were already members reach out to our community, and share the knowledge of the CAA with sledders as well as progress it.
With this new motivation to make a difference, I found an assortment of ways to be involved from some monster days of pit digging with Jeff Scott to gain a personal understanding of how snowmobiles effect the snow pack, to receiving my avalanche operations level two ticket last season. I feel like I am where I should be.
I still speak at an assortment of avalanche outreach events as well as operate an avalanche education business based out of Revelstoke, BC. I am currently looking to gain some more industry days this season to feel comfortable applying for a professional membership in the CAA.
I am still very passionate about helping recreationalist avoid the mistakes I made along the way. We have all learned humility from nature in one way or another. By admitting our mistakes is the only way we will learn from them, and I hope by admitting mine people will learn from them as well as their own.
Thank you so much to the people that believe in me and what I have been doing. It is your unwavering support that keeps me moving forward. And for everyone in my past that has helped me gain my passion for the mountains back. I owe you all a beer or a glass of wine.
Check out Jeremy’s Avy Education and Consulting Business – Soul Rides