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'He didn't want to miss a moment': Banff photographer Matt Snell ID'd as climber killed at Tunnel Mountain

The climber who died at Tunnel Mountain on the weekend was a talented photographer who, after moving to Banff, bloomed into an adventurer who "lived life to its fullest," according to his mother.

Snell's adventurous spirit ignited by his move to Alberta from Whitby, Ont.

Matt Snell was a passionate nature photographer who died on Friday while climbing at Tunnel Mountain near Banff. (Facebook)

The climber who died at Tunnel Mountain on the weekend was a talented photographer who, after moving to Banff, bloomed into an adventurer who "lived life to its fullest," according to his mother.

Matt Snell, 26, originally from Whitby, Ont., was killed Friday while climbing at Tunnel Mountain near the townsite in Banff National Park. 

Emergency crews were called to the popular area — about 120 kilometres west of Calgary — around 12:30 p.m. Friday when Snell fell while climbing along a rock face known as Le Soulier (The Shoe). 

RCMP say Snell stumbled and fell between 25 and 40 metres, suffering fatal injuries. A second climber who became stranded was rescued. 

'Lived life to its fullest'

Snell's mother, Sandra Snell, said it has been a devastating weekend for her family.

She says they've been reminiscing a lot about Matt and how his adventurous spirit was ignited when he moved to Alberta. 

"We were talking about him and [his sister] Samantha will describe him as a dorky little guy who was scared of his own shadow when he was a kid," she told CBC News on Sunday.

"But then he came to Alberta. He just flourished and became so adventurous. He really pushed his limits when he came here, and we really just feel like he came to Alberta and just lived life to its fullest."

He'd get up at 3 a.m. to catch nature at its finest

Sandra said Matt was a talented photographerwhose work was once featured in a CBC article — and was driven to capture moments like no one else. 

"He came out here and he'd get up at three o'clock in the morning and climb a summit, catch a sunrise, go to work in the day, go to a lake at night, catch a sunset, catch the stars, catch the aurora," she said. 

"He didn't want to miss a moment."

Sandra said Matt was a sensitive person who, prior to moving to Alberta, spent hours in his room playing video games.

But, in Alberta he found himself — and peace — in nature photography.

"For him to take pictures of spring flowers, I was just amazed to see that, because just the simple beauty of things that attracted him," she said. "That's what he learned here was just gratitude for everything around him, all this natural beauty."

Friend says they had many plans for summer

Brooke Willson, a friend of Matt's, said the two had been friends for just over a year. 

Willson said they met on a hike through a mutual friend. 

"We had so much planned for the summer, too, backpack trips planned for next month and August and September," she said. "It's just wild to think that those won't be happening."

Willson said Matt had a list of hikes planned for the rest of the year, including Egypt Lake and Healy Pass, something she hopes their friends will still complete. 

"Hopefully we can make the list happen because he won't be able to," she said. "His list was endless. He was always reaching out to have me come along. He was up for anything."

Willson said her friend's passion for photography was something she admired about him.

"How do you even put it into words?" she said. "He wanted to capture images that were different than anybody else's."

'This is where our Mattie is'

Sandra said it was hard to see her son leave him home and not return, but their family saw such positive change in him, they knew it was worth it. 

His life was cut short way too soon, but he's going to wander these mountains forever.- Sandra Snell

"We saw the adventure in him and just such a huge, huge friend network ... and he's touched a lot of people and a lot of people are going to miss him," she said.

"He was only really just starting out and things were starting to go in the right direction. This was never meant to happen. His life was cut short way too soon, but he's going to wander these mountains forever."

The mother of three said she and her family will make a point of returning to Banff going forward.

"This is where our Mattie is," she said.

We speak with Sandra Snell, mother of the climber and photographer who died after a climbing accident on Tunnel Mountain in Banff. 5:46


With files from Elizabeth Withey and The Calgary Eyeopener

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. Lucie most recently headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson