Wendy Allen knew her daughter would be special before she was even born.
In 1997, Allen was at home in labour when a bird that looked like a Tennessee warbler flew into the room. Allen took it as inspiration and named her daughter Tennessee Bird Andersen, or Tenne for short.
Growing up on a rural property south of Nelson, Andersen thrived in nature. Allen remembers teaching Andersen the names of plants and butterflies, and watching as the child who carried chickens under her arms matured into a young woman inspired by outdoor recreation.
“She was a weekend warrior. She just wanted to be out there every minute,” says Allen. “She took trips all the way down to Monument Valley and wanted to climb there. She just fed off it, she just fed off nature.”
On Feb. 11, Andersen and an unidentified male friend were killed by an avalanche south of Tatla Lake in the Potato Mountain Range located in B.C.’s Chilcotin region.
Nine people have now died this year in avalanches, including Nelson police officers Det. Wade Tittemore and Const. Mathieu Nolet.
Allen said the pair had accessed a hut using snowmobiles. They stayed the night, then opted to ski tour the next day. Avalanche Canada said that triggered an avalanche on the mountain’s east-facing slope.
Central Cariboo Search and Rescue, of which Andersen was a volunteer, as well as RCMP and an avalanche safety officer found their bodies two days later.
Rick White, Central Cariboo SAR chief, said in a statement that the death of Andersen has been traumatic for his team. “This member’s kind soul, and bright light, will be significantly missed.”
After graduating from Nelson’s L.V. Rogers Senior Secondary, Andersen did a double degree in psychology and environmental management at Simon Fraser University where she graduated in 2022.
Allen said Andersen was working at a desk job in Vancouver when an opportunity to work as a park ranger in the Williams Lake area opened. She bought a van, lived out of the vehicle on a horse farm, and was thrilled to be working in nature. On weekends she hiked, practised photography (Andersen had a growing audience on Instagram), and explored the region.
A long, happy career as a park ranger, Allen said, seemed to be her daughter’s future.
“She wanted to go to the hotspots, she always wanted to climb. She was just unstoppable. She loved being out in nature. … Her job was going to be protecting nature, protecting animals, protecting swampland, protecting all the things that need to be need to happen in order for us to preserve all these beautiful things.”
Avalanche Canada no longer lists the Tatla Lake area as a risk, but several areas around B.C. including in the Kootenays continue to be rated as considerable or high danger.
Allen doesn’t think touring the backcountry is worth the danger. She wishes now she would have told her daughter that.
“For a girl like her, she had all the enthusiasm. If I could talk to her again, I would have said don’t go. Just hike in the summer, not in the winter.”