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This experience was quite different
from Gargantua, with no rappelling but
caving in
several narrow passages. It was also much
alberta
shorter, so this expedition would be only
two hours long. Only one spot proved to
Preparing for the
be challenging, a short tight “squeeze.” Ice
covered the walls and floors in some places,
underground experience:
and we spotted a few more “bacon strip”
what you need to know to
formations.
Cleft allows you to crawl right through
get started
the mountain top from west to east. It’s a
surreal experience, popping out on a perch
BY SIMa MORLand
called the Eagle’s Nest high in the east face
SECRETaRY OF THE aLBERTa
SPELEOLOGICaL SOCIETY
of the mountain. On this clear blue day, the
slopes of the mountains to the east laid out
below us. Everyone sat in awe, not wanting ¦ We know how high mountains are before
to leave. we climb them, but no one ever knows
Finally we worked up the willpower to how deep a cave goes until it is explored.
crawl back into the mountain, the light In Alberta we have a wealth of caves: Rat’s
slowly fading behind us. Taking a different Nest in Canmore, Gargantua/Cleft in the
passage which quickly narrowed, we Crowsnest Pass and Cadomin Cave near
crawled along for quite a while. Just as we Hinton are some of the most toured caves in
started to feel we’d had enough of that, the province. Because of difficult access to
we turned a corner and were back at the most caves and hibernating bat populations
entrance. As we took off our gear I heard in some, caving tends to be a summer
someone say, “It’s crazy, but I feel like doing sport in the Canadian Rockies. Rat’s Nest in
that again!” And strangely enough, so did Canmore, however, is open all year round.
I. None of us would forget this exhausting In general you should be in good physical
yet exhilarating weekend expedition spent condition to go caving. Depending on the are trained to help people adjust to these
on (and in) Mt. Ptolemy.
«CO
cave location the hike to the mouth may new circumstances and prevent people

WEDER
be a few hours long. Bring an extra set of from panicking.
:
JOEL
T
O
clothes and preferably a synthetic base If you spend a lot of time in the mountains
PHO
layer to keep you warm and dry. Most you may want to learn to cave by joining a
cavers have polyester coveralls (the same club and participating in club events. Most
material as most luggage), but for the people want to share their love of caving
casual caver cotton or plastic ones will with others, so you will receive a lot of
suffice. For certain caves where you may advice and guidance on everything from
be crawling, knee and sometimes elbow where to cave to the brands of equipment to
pads are recommended. Helmets with buy. Go with them on their trips and utilize
two mounted lights are essential. To carry as much of their knowledge as you can,
small things like a flashlight, snacks or a because it may save your life. If you know
small bottle of water a fanny pack comes about certain hazards such as flooding or
in handy. The need for rope and other entrances that ice over, you can prepare for
equipment such as ascenders, descenders it. As with all mountain activities never go
and harnesses depends on whether the alone and always let someone know where
cave has a substantial vertical component you are. should your activities or locations
to it. change make sure someone knows.
As with everything, caving proposes Cavers are environmentally sensitive
certain hazards that can be avoided if you people. “Take nothing but pictures. Leave
are prepared. For a first-time cave explorer nothing but footprints” are the rules we
it is best to sign up for a tour. The guiding follow. When you are in the cave have
company will provide equipment rentals respect for nature’s beauty. Do not litter,
and someone to take you through. spray paint or destroy the cave’s natural
Being underground is a completely features. For caves with bats, do not disturb
different experience. It is cold (about four them, as you are a guest in their home.
degrees Celsius) in the Rockies, dark and Most importantly though, enjoy your trip.
sometimes wet. Not everyone will be For some, one caving experience might be
comfortable in this type of environment, enough and for others it will start a lifelong
especially if you face tight passages. Guides passion.
«CO
10 CALGARY  SUMMER 2008 www.CalgaryOutdoors.ca
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