August 25, 2006 Features & Images » Feature Story

Here in the heart of me 

Those left behind after Jim Haberl's death gather together in the Tantalus Range to launch an elevated tribute to the multi-talented photojournalist, speaker and mountain guide.

"Then we all gathered on the snow and shielded our eyes from the sun as we peered down the glacier for signs of the whirring machine." Sue Oakey-Baker at the site dedicated to Jim Haberl, photo submitted.
  • "Then we all gathered on the snow and shielded our eyes from the sun as we
    peered down the glacier for signs of the whirring machine." Sue Oakey-Baker
    at the site dedicated to Jim Haberl, photo submitted.

Keep him alive. Don’t let him die. Whatever it takes. I will do anything. Just don’t let my Jim die…

I went to Alaska to where he fell. I searched the Queen Charlotte Islands, where we first met. I struggled to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, where we had journeyed the year before. I scoured the hills around our Whistler home, I skied the same Haute Route in France that he had skied. My feet followed my heart.

I climbed ice, snow and mountains to find him and to bring him back. And still he did not come home. Death is so final.

Jim’s family and friends talked of a memorial; perhaps a scholarship fund for aspirant guides, a library or maybe even a hut in the mountains. People’s lives got busy and the ideas floated aimlessly. I pushed for action but momentum was lost and the current of life was too strong. My battle to live in the past was my own.

When the Alpine Club of Canada called to say they had been thinking of building a hut in the Tantalus Range, near Squamish, and that maybe we could go into partnership, I wedged my whole being into this crevasse of hope. I wrapped my heart around keeping Jim alive, around getting my old life back and I hung on.

In 2001, the Jim Haberl Memorial Hut committee was founded, comprised of Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) members and of friends and family of Jim. Our passion, emotion and fund-raising capabilities gelled nicely with the skill, dedication and available volunteer labour force of the ACC.

Almost five years later, on June 29, 2006, six helicopter loads of committee members and of Jim’s family, a total of 22 people, congregated to celebrate the official opening of the Jim Haberl Memorial Hut: Jim’s parents, Bill and Margaret Haberl, Jim’s sister Susan and her family, Sri, Rajesh and Kiran, Jim’s brothers Pat, Mike and Kevin and Kevin’s family, Vicki, Jaslyn and Connor, myself and my husband Joe Baker, Alastair Foreman and his wife Janice, Liz Scremin, Peter Taylor, Blair Mitten, Capt. Dale Thingvold, Sgt Rene Pelletier and his son Mathieu.

My husband Joe and I had flown in the night before with Jim’s brothers and joined the work crew already there. As the helicopter circled to land, I looked down at this beautiful hut with the rust-coloured trim and bright silver lettering shining in the sun, "THE JIM HABERL HUT", and something expanded inside of me. When I walked through the door, I gazed at the crisp blond finishing wood, the steel countertops, the tongue and groove ceiling, Peter’s smiling face, and all I could say was "wow". Then I felt tears come to my eyes and everyone was smiling and laughing. It was so beautiful. What a beautiful honouring of Jim and, as Alastair said, Jim sure deserved it.

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