Black Hawk Helicopter Pilot Survives 50-Foot Fall During Alaskan Mountain Race

At 12:50 pm on July 4, photographer Carol Griswold captured this amazing photograph of 34-year-old Penny Assman, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot from Utah who served two tours in Iraq, coming to the conclusion of a 50-foot slide-and-fall during the annual Mount Marathon footrace. Basically, everyone races to be the first to get up the 3,022-foot peak and come back down (alive, hopefully). It can actually be a dangerous event, as a 66-year-old man from this year's race is presumed to be dead—the race's first fatality in nearly 100 years—after going missing.

This year was the first time Assman was competing, and she was only five minutes from the finish line when she fell. What caused the last-minute stumble? She came to a fork in the road and went left when she should've gone right. That's all.

The Anchorage Daily News has the full story:

Assman, who was hospitalized for five days after the race, told her story in a phone interview Tuesday in Anchorage. Her boyfriend estimates she slid 30 to 40 feet before reaching the cliff.

"I'm on my butt and I have my hands down and I keep trying to kind of inch myself back. But as I do that, I keep sliding a little bit more. A little bit more," Assman said. She skittered from one slick rock formation to another.

Assman spotted a knot of tree roots and lunged for them, she said. "The last thing that I could think of that could possibly save me from falling."

It didn't work.

From there, Assman freefell in mid-air into several people below (the last instance of which is depicted above), and even for someone who has served in wartime conditions, the experience had to have been pretty terrifying. There's lots of other good info in that story—including the identity of the woman who softened Assman's final descent—so do go and check it out, as well as Griswold's other dramatic photographs from that scene, including this one of a recovering Assman, who's already vowed to come back and finish next year's race.

Black Hawk Helicopter Pilot Survives 50-Foot Fall During Alaskan Mountain Race

[Anchorage Daily News, Seward City News, h/t Brendan]