Somehow I managed to convince seven friends to join me next week in crawling through tight (I’m told the smallest space is the size of a manhole cover), dark, twisting passages and chambers of stalactites & stalagmites, with no interior lighting, no handrails, no walkways, rappel 18 meters and a mysterious place called the laundry chute, all of which is in the Rat’s Nest Cave. At just over 4km long, the Rat’s Nest Cave, a provincial historic site, is the 12th longest cave in Canada and one of the deepest in Alberta. Located under Grotto Mountain outside of Canmore, Alberta; it houses prehistoric bones, pictographs, fossils and caverns of stalactites and stalagmites. Who could say no to that! I’m guessing none of my friends have severe cases of claustrophobia or are afraid of heights, otherwise we are about to find out!
Fortunately we’re in good hands. After talking with Adam Walker, who recently took over Canmore Cave Tours (CCT), a cave touring and course company operated out of Canmore, my fears of crawling into small dark spaces drastically subsided. Not only does Adam have a graduate degree in geoscience studying caves, but also has years of experience under his belt. Adam’s passion for caving is contagious! Through him I now understand why this is such an exciting sport! Apart from deep sea diving, caves are some of the last remaining unexplored areas on earth. He described some of the longer, more technical caving expeditions he’s been a part of, some of them requiring scuba diving and ice climbing! Caving really makes clear the need to be self reliant; often exploring for days with the necessity to overcome any obstacle. Now that’s an adventure!
He really emphasized that although there are dangerous aspects to caving, like all sports, with the proper equipment and training the risks are mitigated. Making sure to keep things safe, they provide all the necessary equipment (helmet, headlamp, cotton coveralls, kneepads, gloves, safety lanyard a.k.a. Cow’s Tail, a backpack and a harness) as well as an experienced, professionally trained and certified guide.
Wanting to try something new and adventurous in the New Year, when the opportunity to try caving with Canmore Cave Tours presented itself, the answer was obvious! As the adventure approaches, two concerns remain. What happens if I get stuck and where do you go to the bathroom in a cave? Four hours is a long time to hold it! I’ll let you know in two weeks.