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.

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Then their eyes came to rest on the display and their mouths opened as they moved closer. First they scanned the photos around the outside: Four Haberl brothers in Prince of Wales high school football uniforms sporting shoulder-length blond hair, six Haberl siblings and their parents standing together in almost identical posture, a family photo at our wedding, Jim skiing, climbing, exploring, taking photos, laughing…

Then they settled on the different pieces housed inside:

• Jim’s smiling face set in front of his large photo of K2 and words describing him as a teacher, guide, mentor and a man of grace and humility;

• Letters from the Governor General, the Mayor of Vancouver, the Premier of British Columbia and the Prime Minister of Canada, congratulating Jim for receiving the Meritorious Service medal for being the first Canadian to summit K2, the second highest mountain in the world;

• A picture of the team members from his 1993 K2 expedition;

• A framed award from the Canadian Alpine Journal for "best article" entitled "Dan, K2", written by Jim;

• Mounted copies of his best-selling book covers K2, Dreams and Reality and Risking Adventure .

Three of Jim’s climbing axes and a handful of his climbing nuts filled in the spaces.

I stepped back again, looked at the display, and smiled. I gave Alastair a high five and said "Thank you, we’re done." His smile just got bigger and our chests puffed out a bit. Five years of hard work.

People wandered, peered, ran their hands on the new surfaces, chatted and then settled down to eat their bag lunches. Jim’s mom passed around poppy seed cake and the nieces and nephews sat around the table playing cards and others meandered outside. When it seemed like the eating had died down and Rene had actually started working again, screwing in the weather stripping on the front door, I asked everyone to gather inside.

The committee had planned to formally thank some people. First we thanked Nathan Dubeck of Omega Helicopters who consistently went the extra mile for us, flying up such materials as a 12-foot long steel countertop. Peter said a few words about the 192 nd Airfield Engineers headed by Captain Dale Thingvold. His building crew, overseen by Sergeant Rene Pelletier, volunteered to construct and pre-assemble Jim’s hut in Abbotsford. Thanks to their enthusiasm, diligence and skill, the building went together almost flawlessly on site. The hut would not be here without their help. When Peter’s twinkling blue eyes came to rest on me, my throat constricted. Alastair thanked the tireless efforts of the Alpine Club of Canada: Manrico Scremin, Blair Mitten, Colin Boyd and Ian McAllister. In particular, he spoke of the incredible contribution by Peter Taylor and Liz Scremin to the design, engineering and overall construction of Jim’s Hut.

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