Adventurers killed in Shannon Falls tragedy shared joys of travel online

Ryker Gamble and Alexey Lyakh first earned headlines through a YouTube channel he helped found with friends to showcase their passion for world adventure — and breaking a few rules.

Trio documented head-spinning adventures and luxury vacation through social media

Megan Scraper and Alexey Lyakh both earned their living through social media. (Facebook)

They were three people who lived their lives online, sharing the thrills of world travel with an army of followers on social media.

But on Tuesday, those well-documented lives ended when all three were killed in an accident at Shannon Falls near Squamish, B.C.

The trio of young people have been identified as Ryker Gamble and, according to reports, Alexey Lyakh and Megan Scraper.

Gamble's death was confirmed by his family. The families of Lyakh and Scraper have not commented. All three were from the Vancouver area. 

In one of his last Instagram posts, Vancouver-based Gamble spoke about the lessons of the past year and the joys of a life spent exploring the world with his childhood friends.

He was only 30, but he still spoke about the things we can all learn from "our younger selves."

"Life isn't about responsibilities, tough decisions and hard work, it's about feeling bliss and living in the moment," he wrote.

"My plan is to not [stifle] the kid in me ... the kid that wants to do weird and wacky things."

Gamble, Lyakh and Scraper's deaths will inevitably cast a spotlight on the sometimes uneasy relationship between social media and lovers of outdoor adventure.

Witnesses reported seeing Scraper slip and fall from the rocks at the top of the falls, into the strong current. The two men apparently jumped in the water to try to save her.

The area is accessible from the Sea-to-Sky gondola and by hiking trails in Shannon Falls Provincial Park, but search and rescue officials say it can be dangerous.

Shannon Falls Provincial Park is about two kilometres south of Squamish along the Sea to Sky Highway. (Shutterstock)

Locals have complained that the area is being visited by people unprepared for the dangerous terrain. Those concerns have been echoed in other parts of the province by hikers and wilderness enthusiasts who are increasingly seeing their private spots invaded by tourists in search of sites they've seen on Instagram.

Gamble and Lyakh first earned headlines locally through High On Life, a YouTube channel and business they started with two childhood friends.

Together, the four young men built a significant online following based on a passion for world travel and adventure. They filmed themselves wearing costumes, doing acrobatics and posing with each other while inviting their fans to join in the fun.

But they also wound up making international headlines on a U.S. road trip after authorities in Wyoming accused them of disrespecting Yellowstone Park by wandering off a boardwalk to film themselves next to the iconic Grand Prismatic Spring.

Three members of the High on Life crew were charged with a misdemeanour, but had already returned to Canada by the time the news hit.

The allegations sparked a global backlash as people went online to comb their social media channels for evidence of more infractions. Tips sent from the public resulted in tickets for violating the rules in Death Valley, Zion National Park, Mesa Verde and the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Gamble and Lyakh returned to a Wyoming courtroom, where they were each sentenced to seven days in prison. At the time, Yellowstone's park superintendent, Dan Wenk, said the jail time was intended to send a "strong and poignant message" about safety.

"We implore all visitors to learn about the rules in Yellowstone, respect the rules and follow them," Wenk said.

Lyakh, who was from Richmond, also posted numerous shots of B.C.'s natural beauty on Instagram in the days before his death, and of his travels with Scraper, a former field hockey star who worked as a social media consultant.

In one entry, posted less than a month ago, he spoke about struggling with the desire to go exploring back in Canada.

"It's something that comes so naturally when travelling," he wrote. "But here I tend to take my surroundings for granted."

He said he spent the following day looking up a list of places he planned to visit in B.C. and Alberta this summer.

West Vancouver native Scraper spoke of her relationship with Lyakh in a Facebook video earlier this year, talking about how they travelled the world together, getting paid to stay at luxury resorts in exchange for social media content.

"It barely felt like work, because we were doing exactly what we loved to do," she said.

Scraper said she found her calling in social media after quitting an unsatisfying job and travelling the world. She described the experience in the short e-book Not Cut Out for the 9-5.

Her friend Sunny Lenarduzzi described Scraper, who went by the name "Mindy the Lion" online, as an inspiration.

"I always had such a mad amount of respect for how great she was at what she did," Lenarduzzi said.

"The thing with Mindy is that she lived such a full life. If there's any solace in this, it's that she did more than most people do by 80 in her short time here on Earth."

Read more from CBC British Columbia

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

With files from Jennifer Wilson