Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Syphon Creek fall

I witnessed a graphic, 60 foot fall from above the Syphon Creek waterfall last Friday evening, while I was just about to climb with my 11 yr old niece and my spouse.
Two 18 year old females decided to go for a Friday evening hike up to the waterfall, they were there when we got there. I had one climbing shoe on and I was tied into the rope at the base of Iron Cross when I heard a scream. When I looked up I saw a body plummet down from 50-60′ above the waterfall hitting the ledges on the way down and landing on some logs at the base of the waterfall. It happened in a split second. Luckily, 2 other middle-aged hikers were at the waterfall soon after we were. Myself and the other male hiker quickly got to the girl, who at the time was getting soaked by the the falling water. We moved her out of the creek and onto the far bank where I did a quick assessment of her condition (I’ve held a level 3 FA ticket for several years). I found that she had some severe head injuries and was barely coherent. She could not speak very well at all, but I was able to get some information out of her like her name and where she was from etc.
Meanwhile, my spouse and the other hikers’ wife had called for paramedics and met them at the parking lot. Eventually myself and the other male hiker moved her to the ironcross side of the creek, where we waited about 20 minutes (the longest 20 minutes of my life!), for paramedics to arrive with a stretcher. Just after we got her on the stretcher, Gord Bose arrived to assist in the evacuation, along with more Paramedics, a few RCMP, and Search and Rescue volunteers. By the time we got her to the upper parking lot, there was also a helicopter waiting to lift her to the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. The assessment that the paramedics made on sight involved severe head injuries, and a problem with one of her lungs’ capacity to breathe. I have not heard how her condition is this morning but I hope – hope – hope that she survives.
This experience has left me with a few insights that I thought might be relevant to climbers: First, double check your knot. Every time. Even though the poor girl was not a climber and was not roped in, her fall is what we, as climbers, would take if we make a mistake. It was disturbing to see it, and we do not want to have that happen to us or our friends. Do not compromise the pre-climb ritual!
Second, as local climbers I feel we should advocate for putting signage up at Siphon creek warning hikers and climbers of the dangers of hiking/scrambling/ climbing around the cliffs (If anyone is interested in being apart of this effort, let me know). I feel a proactive roll on this front would be good for climbing and the community in general.
Third, have a plan in place as to what you would do if a situation like this happened to you. Those 2 girls would have been alone up there but for the luck of having us and those other two hikers happen along. What would be your plan if one of your climbing partners took a bad fall like that? How would you contact help? Do you have a cell with you? Does anyone know you're there? Be prepared.
Food for thought. Feel free to contact me if you want to get in on the signage proposal, I am not sure how to go about it, but we can figure something out.
Climb safe,

Update: I have heard that she will make a full recovery. She will be graduating this year from Salmon Arm High-school and she will be healthy enough to walk the stage. She got away with 2 skull fractures, 2 broken ribs, 2 severly sprained ankles, a cracked vertebrae, and a severe concusion.  However she is going to be okay!! :)


  1. Thanks for the article, well written.....and yes it can happen to you, thank God the young lady is going to be okay.

    1. Thanks. I appreciate the kind words. She is doing excellent now. We met up with her at home and she is definitely going to be fine. It was a goog closure visit. Yay!