Albion Falls hikers trapped as water rushes down stream
Group was hiking and taking pictures at base of falls; then rain hit and changed their fun time
A “loud, thunderous noise” was all Christopher Palumbo heard before the water started rushing down Albion Falls toward him and his five buddies.
The 19-year-old from Vaughan road tripped to Hamilton on the long weekend to hike the trails and shoot some photos of the falls, but a quick turn in the weather changed those plans.
Thunder and rain prompted the group to take cover under a rock ledge Monday afternoon, and that’s when the water came.
“We heard a loud, thunderous noise, and we
all looked up and saw that all the water had started rushing down the waterfall,” he said.
“It was like this water had come out of nowhere.”
At first, they were amazed by the beauty and power of the flow, he said.
“Then we realize, this thing’s coming right towards us.”
The friends picked up their gear and fled downstream. The flooding started, and people got split up from one another and stuck on cliff sides, he said.
He and his friends managed to cross the water and get to high ground but then he got stuck. While looking for ways to get back on the trail and find his way out of the falls, he ran into a couple of people stuck on the same side as him.
“We all kind of stayed together just to figure out how we were going to get across,” he said.
“Some people were from out of the province, so they were really unfamiliar with the area.
“They had no idea what they were walking into.”
About 30 people were down at the base of the falls when the water started rushing, Palumbo noted, including a man who got stuck in the water as it was flowing.
Palumbo said the man managed to hold on to his dog despite getting washed down shore.
With the help of emergency personnel, Palumbo was walked to safety. Neither he nor his friends suffered any injuries, he said.
Immediately after the misadventure during his first visit to Albion Falls, Palumbo said he was shocked. But a few hours later, that initial panic had already subsided.
“We’re all calmed down,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something we’ll let bother us in the future.”
But he did have a few words of advice for anyone thinking of travelling down the sleep slopes anytime soon: “Be prepared. Plan … Know what you’re getting yourself into.”
Hamilton fire prevention officer Steve McArthur said a total of 10 hikers needed assistance getting out of Albion Falls after an “excessive amount of water” came Monday afternoon. No one was injured, he said.
Albion Falls has been at the centre of the public and political backlash lately over people ignoring safety warnings and trespassing.
This has led the city to bolster safety features, including adding $75,000 worth of fencing and increasing ticketing enforcement of trespassers.
Palumbo, who was informed afterwards that he was in a restricted area, said he didn’t receive a ticket. He said bylaw told him that was because there was “no signage” in the area he was in.
Monday’s rain also prompted another rescue at Lower Chedoke Falls about a half hour before crews were called to Albion Falls.
At Chedoke, a family of five — three adults and two kids — became stranded on rocks because of fast moving water, McArthur said. No one was injured, he added. Hamilton Police Service’s marine unit was called in to help with that rope rescue using a portable water rescue craft because of their “swift water” training, said Const. Ben Rushton.
“The rapids were quite swift when we first got there,” said Rushton.
People need to be aware of the potential hazards around them, Rushton said.
“When they’re hiking, especially when they’re near steep cliffs obviously you need to stay back from that and obey any signage and fences and stay on marked trails,” he said.
“And then when there’s rain, definitely stay away from water’s edge.”
Sergio Umanzor, 20, of Vaughan, is escorted up the trail near Albion Falls by a Hamilton firefighter Monday afternoon.
Water rushes down Albion Falls Monday afternoon after heavy rains.
From left, Chris Palumbo, 19, Adam Guadagnoli, 19, Nicola Caccavella, 20, and Sergio Umanzor, 20.