P8200198My family and I spent the past week in Waterton, Canada. Waterton sits on the USA, Canada border and is part of Glacier National Park. We had a wonderful time, but had our fair share of adventures. The one I’ll share on this blog post was the closest I have come to losing my life, and I’ve had several close calls.

My Aunt Bev sent an email to her family after the event and she asked me to add my own words to it. I think her email did a good job of capturing both the onlooker perspective and my perspective of the event.

(Paddling to the end of Cameron Lake.
The glacier cave is barely visible on the far end of the lake in the two white dots.)

Excerpt from Bev’s email:

We packed a picnic and went to Cameron Lake. Nellie and Garth came too. Jason brought up his kayaks and had fun with Tyler and Kallie. Even Jean took a turn. Then, he went for a journey on his own.

And, this is when the major miracle and blessing of the day took place. He was at the end of P8200218Cameron Lake by the glacier ice cave, the visible entrance of which was roughly 15 feet above the water line and more than 30 feet across. He was taking pictures, and considering going through the cave to see the lake on the other end of the tunnel when he heard something like dynamite or a loud artillery shell exploding in the ice. It was part of glacier which made up the ice cave, the size of a train car, likely bigger, and it was beginning to break off. He had time to back stroke twice before the glacier smashed into the water. He knew he was facing death.

(Above: Approaching the glacier ice cave. Notice the large rock 10 feet to the right of the cave edge.
Below: This is on a wide angle, next to the entrance, right before the ice fell. The lip of the entrance was roughly 15 feet above me.)

The following is an account in his own words…

“I watched as the main piece of the glacier crashed into the water less than 3 feet in front of my boat. My boat was thrown sideways by the water that was displaced and a huge wave crashed into the side of the boat while huge chunks of ice smashed into the water and sides of the boat. I was rolled 3/4ths of the way over and my body was protected by the bottom left underside of the fiberglass Dagger RPM whitewater kayak and likely more than one guardian angel. I was able to quickly roll back up and catch a four to five foot P8200220wave of water that surfed me away from the rush of ice chunks and snow that followed behind the crest of the wave. Had I not caught this wave, I likely would have been smashed by hundreds of chunks of rock hard ice that soon covered a 40 x 40 yard area.

When the waves and ice settled and I was able to survey the damage, it revealed a gap in the snow larger than a large box car, at least 15 feet high, 15 feet wide and 50 or more feet across. As the waves settled, two deer walked tentatively across the remaining archway and paused to look at me, I’m sure to shake their head and smile.

The only damage was I was completely soaked and my sunglasses came off when i had rolled in the water. Amazingly, I didn’t have a scratch or bruise on my body.

(Above: Paddling back towards the glacier after the ice fell.
Below: Notice the dirt that is now visible, as well as the rock on the far right.)

A canoe and 2-man kayak quickly pulled up to see the damage and asked if I was ok. They said they had seen the entire thing and thought i had been crushed by the ice fall. They said that i completely disappeared and was engulfed by the water, ice and mist spray that followed. They were relieved when they saw I was safe and had reappeared from the water. They were thinking they were going to be part of search and recovery, not a search and rescue. They commented that they thought that at least it would have been quick and I wouldn’t have felt much pain from several tons of ice crushing my body.

I paddled back towards the ice cave to see the amount of ice in the water. It covered so large an area, you couldn’t get within 40yards of the cave entrance where I had been before, because of the ice in the water. Most of the chunks of ice near the P8200227P8200230edge were slightly larger than a basketball and were harder than rock. The size of the ice chunks grew larger, the closer it was to the entrance. The ice was so thick that there was no possible way to pass through the ice in the water. The ice was so compact and heavy that I could not lift a basketball sized ice chunk out of the water.

(Above: Notice the massive size of the fall vs. my arms.
Below: This is the zoomed out shot they took with my camera to show the entire hillside.)

I had the people in the boats take several photos of me near the edge of the fallen ice to better understand the size of the ice fall. Without a person in the photo you really can’t appreciate the massive size of the glacier that fell.”

When Jason got back to shore, Jean asked if he had fun. Jason said, “No! I almost died!” He then gave Stacy a BIG hug, which was touching. This morning he said, “I would have rather fought a bear. I would have had a better chance.”. It was a humbling experience for him, which he has relived over and over. Art says that all the times he rowed for Aunt Lou, she never let him take her close to the glaciers.

(Final Photo – The glacier cave was just around the corner from the glacier on the right.
Notice the beautiful waterfall and green vegetation.)

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