Friday, June 29, 2018

Caving in Canada

 I had the opportunity to travel to the Canadian Rockies to teach a cave rescue class. I jumped at the chance, as I had never been to the Canadian Rockies before.

Eddy Cartaya organized the class with the help of Canadian Christian Stenner. We held our short classroom session in a hotel room in Canmore. These small party assisted rescue classes are purposefully kept small.

Then our indoor rope afternoon was at Canmore's amazing climbing gym.

I wanted to stay and climb!

The second day we went out on some cliffs near Rat's Nest Cave, a commercial cave.

Later in the evening we hung around a tree. Literally.

On the third day we had a variety of learning stations in Rat's Nest Cave. I helped supervise the climbing and rappelling counterweight station, which is a very fun station as the concept is sort of like an elevator. Weight on one side of the rope that goes through a pulley means the person on the other side of the rope goes up.

And on the fourth day we presented the students with scenarios that they had to figure out how to solve, including packaging the patient and coming up with an extrication plan.

I was an "angel" or supervisor for this, so I had my hands free to take some photos.

The station I was at was multi-pitch, so it was fun seeing how the students solved it. Rebecca, being rescued, eyes the solution below with a bit of concern. Fortunately they worked it out and got her to the next section of rope.

The class was successful, and all the American instructors were impressed with the level of skills of the Canadian students. I'd love to go take a Canadian rescue class sometime, as they have different things they emphasize. Plus Canadians are just a lot of fun!

We had great weather for the class, and then the day after it rained. That meant a good day for Upper Banff hot springs! We (the instructors who could stay a little later) also checked out the Whyte Museum of the Rockies in Banff and ate a delicious dinner.

Then we drove several hours south and stayed in some cabins to prepare for an epic cave trip the next day. I woke up early and found this beautiful sight behind the cabins.

We met up with Christian, who had agreed to take us to Booming Ice Chasm, the biggest ice cave in North America. It required a hike with a 700m (2200 ft.) elevation gain and big packs to carry 250 m (750 ft.) of rope, ice screws, crampons, and warm gear for the ice cave.

I took photos as a good excuse to catch my breath! Here's a Pasque flower.

We kept heading up.

Finally we made it to the thin rock ledge where the cave is located. Some of it is exposed, so it took awhile to get our whole group across. While I was waiting, I found this packrat in another cave entrance. He wasn't at all timid, and one of the problems cavers have in this area is packrats gnawing through their ropes. Yikes!

We're getting close now!

Finally we're at the entrance!

It was time to suit up and have the first couple of people go down to start rigging.

I was very excited when it was my turn to go down. I descended the snow to the first rebelay station.

From there I could look down under the hoar frost to where the snow turned to ice just before the next station.

A bit further into the cave and I could look down several pitches, admiring the giant frozen blue waterfall we were descending. The slopes average about 70 degrees, so even though we needed 250 meters of rope, the actual depth is about 140 meters. The cave is a cold trap, cold enough that meltwater refreezes each year on this frozen waterfall, leaving it look pristine each season. The name Booming Ice Chasm comes from the sound made if something is dropped. The cave echoes a lot, so it was hard to communicate.

Side waterfalls came in from side passages. This one was quite wet and made cool tinkling sounds as water dripped.

Looking back up, I could still see the entrance. But we weren't even half way down yet.

At the one level spot in the cave, we found some calcite speleothems. They were covered with frost.

Finally we made it to the bottom, where the floor was coated with ice. Woohoo! Now we just had to climb back out, using our crampons quite a bit. Once we climbed up the inside of the mountain, we had to descend back down the outside of the mountain.

Christian Stenner snapped this photo of me coming out. I had a great time! The cave was gorgeous, and I felt plenty safe going with seven other cave rescue instructors! You can see some great photos of the cave here. And here's an interesting account of filming inside the cave.
Thanks to all who made this trip possible. It was quite an experience, and I hope to return to Canada to do some more caving.

1 comment:

David Evans said...

That is one swell cave!..Lucky lady, Thanks,
David

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