Trip Organizer: Maria Berno
Trip Attendees: Maria, Tom, Mark, Glen, Mirtha, Glen, Graham, Derek, Tabea, Christine, Robert
After hearing so many lovely things about Lake Lovely Water but many horror stories about the approach I decided it was my turn to take a go at it. All things considered, the trip was a success and in the end, it was a miracle, but everyone survived…
There were two groups on this trip, we will tell the story of the first group which was amazing yet very uneventful compared to the second.
Team 1: Maria, Tom, Mark, Glen, Mirtha, Glen, Graham
Being typical VOCers, we opted for the cheap option to cross the river, the cable wire crossing. We arrived at the cable wire tower around 9am Friday morning. With our harnesses on, we climbed up the tower ladder, stood on the bottom wire and attached our personal safeties to the top wire. We didn’t have large enough carabiners for the fat bottom wire, so we attached our bags to the top wire as well. With our Tyrolean system set up, we began crossing the raging river on the 150m long wire. If it wasn’t difficult enough with the slack in the line, we had to get over 4 very large aircraft warning cones which was a very fun task to watch. It took each person about 20-30 minutes to reach the other side.
It was 1pm when everyone was finally across the wire safely, no one fell or dropped anything and we all were back down on the other side of the river, ready to start our hike up to the lake. We took the trail to the right of the tower on the other side of the river and there was a very well-marked trail leading all the way to the lake following the lake lovely water run off which was a beautiful (yet insanely scary) waterfall (stay tuned). Channeling our inner black bear, we ate all the berries on the way up to the lake, leaving no salmonberry behind and made it up around 5pm.
We arrived in awe as we crossed the suspension bridge and made our way out onto the dock of the crystal clear glacier lake. We stared over the beautiful lake at the base of Omega, Niobe, Red Tusk, Serratus and Alpha and began to formulate a plan for the following day’s adventure up one of the peaks. After taking in the view, we decided to set up camp at the sites around the Jim Haberl Hut, make ourselves some dinner, and enjoy the lake.
We sent a message to Team 2 who had left Vancouver around 12pm that day. We were expecting them to arrive around 8 or 9pm that evening but had heard nothing. After no response from them, we used the inReach to send a message to 2 group members. Assuming the second group bailed after seeing the wire crossing, we all went to bed having no idea what we were in for in the morning…
Team 2: Robert, Christine, Tabea (tabea read over and let me know if you want to be anonymous or not, I can replace all of your name to “person x” if you prefer or remove the entire story if you want)
Robert woke us up bright and early with news that they did in fact arrive that night around 2am after a very traumatic accident on the way up.
Tabea is expecting a full recovery.
Around 600m elevation, Team 2 decided to fill their water in the river from the runoff of Lovely Water Lake.
The next bit is written by Tabea herself:
“It started with the easy task to just refill my water bottle and ended in a pretty life threatening situation, but as I’m writing this from the Vancouver general hospital you all know I’ll be okay.
Approaching the creek which is, as I learned, just the outflow of Lake Lovely Water, I lost traction on the mossy rocks and slid into the creek.
First thought: Oh damn i fell into the water, now everything is wet, how embarrassing…. second thought: oh this current is fast and all the rocks are perfectly smooth … and i got smashed against the first boulder in the creek. Let’s just say white water slides in water parks are definitely not my thing anymore. Or any slides or any waterfalls. Somehow the survival instincts in us spoiled 21st century humans is still there and I instinctively covered my neck and head with my arms and curled my body into a fetal position.
I still got a few quite hard hits and I was pretty sure I’m not gonna make it out of there… but I tried to hold on to whatever I could feel. The first attempt, (smooth boulder with moss on it) did not work – the second attempt, a few pools later (one of the so abundant logs in Squamish) luckily worked! I gave it a full body hug and somehow that saved me from getting washed down further with the current.
After maybe a minute hugging this log with my legs and arms I somehow hauled myself around and laid down flat on the ground at the side of the river. I did not lose consciousness – which I’m pretty sure saved my life. Also, I wasn’t actually afraid of drowning but definitely of getting hit against the rocks in the white water and falling down the cascade waterfalls.
Laying there next to the river, I also realized that my right leg was definitely broken as I had 2 more joints in my shin suddenly. I pretty much knew that I had no chance to get somewhere with that leg so I just stayed there next to the creek looking at the blue sky with the clouds and the treetops of the neighboring trees. Some water splashed into my face keeping me conscious.
Screaming for help was pretty obsolete as I was laying right next to an enormous loud waterfall. I still was pretty sure I was gonna die there but at least it was more peaceful where I was now.
I knew that Rob knew that I went down to the creek and I hadn’t come back yet. I lifted my right arm straight up into the air to be more visible from the trail (which I hoped was close by, I had no idea how far I traveled in the water). For my traumatized brain it luckily felt really quick – and I suddenly saw first Rob and then Christine on my right side.
I had to pull myself together not to throw up as some of the adrenaline left my body – they found me, I was safe. I know that there could be a million things that could go wrong, even after you’ve been found by your friends, but for me that felt like I made it. Now Robert and Christine were the most amazing people ever, they quickly checked my spine and my neck (which seemed okay) and if I could feel all my body parts (yes) and I mean I was still talking so that’s a good sign I guess. I started to realize how freaking cold I was and begged them to just throw some of their clothes at me (which they did).
Beyond that, I was put on a sleeping pad inside of sleeping bags and an emergency blanket and they instantly started boiling water in their jetboil so I could have bottles with hot water in the sleeping bag with me. Good thing we were on our way to an overnight camping trip.
In parallel Rob had contacted Squamish search and rescue with his Inreach (those things save lives, bring one on your trip!) and we heard back from them rather quickly. I was so relieved, but also very anxious when they would come, I was so uncomfortable (actually no pain, adrenaline and cold water do their thing).
Finally we saw a helicopter making its circles in the sky above us – but it couldn’t land. Somehow there was an issue with the exact GPS location and they first thought we’d be somewhere else and came with the „wrong“ helicopter. So they went away again to come with an helicopter and a long line. Luckily we got all this information from communicating with them on the inreach and I think Rob even managed a normal call to them at one point. Would have been quite worrying otherwise to see them turn around. But as they had our exact location now they soon were back with a smaller helicopter and a long line attached.
The assessment of the search and rescue crew came to the same result, my neck and spine were probably okay, so I could be transported. They also replaced the beautiful sprain made from two ice axes on my right leg (which I never got to see) with their own construction. I was put into a kinda sleeping bag thingy with a big latch over the head as well and was soon flying out with the two guys hanging left and right of me.
It was surprisingly not scary (I was partly just very relieved to leave this particular part of the forest) but also the presence of the two search and rescue guys right next to me and the pretty amazing view you get helped. Imagine Squamish, the rivers, the mountains and the sea at sun set from high above. Beautiful. We landed somewhere roughly 10 minutes later and I was put into an ambulance and driven to the Squamish hospital – there I started to realize I actually made it out and started to be incredibly grateful.
Everyone seemed really shocked what I’ve been through and search and rescue together with the paramedics figured out that I travelled around 100m in the white water with a total drop of 30 ft roughly. I was in the Squamish hospital for a few hours finally getting pain killers (the strongest you can imagine) and a lot of x-rays, assessment of my internal organs and the desperate effort to warm me up (a lot of heated blankets). I got diagnosed the obviously broken right leg, I think a broken shoulder blade and some mysterious low blood pressure. As they were afraid of internal bleedings they called a helicopter to fly me out to Vancouver general hospital – which then happened around midnight. They heated the helicopter to 37 degrees and I had one of the best naps ever, finally being allowed to sleep, during the 15 min flight to Vancouver.
Arriving here at the VGH, I got a full body CT which would clarify whatever was wrong with me. The found some blood in my lung (hemothorax and pneumothorax) and respective air bubbles in parts of my lung where you don’t want to have air normally (forgot the medical term for that). This meant I got a chest tube – which is about as comfortable as it sounds. But my internal organs are fine.
Overall, I managed to have a complicated open fracture in my right leg, cut to my left knee, 2 cracked ribs, some issues to my lung (which are by now a week later completely resolved by the way) and a broken scapula – oh yeah and a huge blue eye, as a hematoma from my forehead slipped down into the eye socket (as everyone who has seen me the last few days would know). I know it’s a miracle that I’m still here and part of that miracle is how well my rescue went.
I don’t even know what to say – thank you rob and Christine for finding me and taking care of me until search and rescue arrived. Thank you VOC for educating all of us in what to do in these situations! Thanks to Squamish search and rescue, it is incredible what you are doing each day. And then for sure thank you to all paramedics, nurses, surgeons and doctors in Squamish and Vancouver who patched me back together. I know it’s a privilege that nearly a week later my biggest concern is that I’m really bored in the hospital and wished that I could walk already and leave.”
It was a very unfortunate accident that could have happened to anyone. It is a miracle Tabea survived and we are so grateful for everyone’s efforts during her rescue and healing process.
We are sharing this story with fellow adventure lovers so that everyone is aware of the consequences of a small slip. We hope people will take caution and learn from this incident in future circumstances. Avoid fast flowing water, always carry an inReach system when in the wilderness and prepare yourselves via Wilderness First Aid courses so that lives can be saved when the unexpected happens.
The Rest of the Trip
Having called the hospital and hearing that Tabea would make a full recovery after her surgeries we decided to stick to the original plan and head back down Sunday. Everyone else that made it up came down safely from the lake Sunday.