Crazy caves and crazy carpets

The last couple of days have been adventurous alright – first day spending hours trudging through knee deep snow and discovering three caves and more untouched frozen waterfalls, and the second day hiking 8km up a steep and exhausting trail, and crazy carpeting down. Pretty much just jumping on a small slippery piece of plastic and letting gravity do what it does best. So much fun!

Woo! Crazy carpets in their element
Woo! Tim shows us how crazy carpeting is done – with the face to match.

The ice canyon was pristine, untouched and even un-named. Very few people know about this place which makes it so much more exciting to explore. Donny and I actually didn’t even go there to find caves, but we certainly got lucky. After a couple of kilometres of tiring work hiking along the very much snow covered frozen river we arrived at the start of the canyon.

It was really awesome watching the canyon slowly form until we were surrounded by these marvelous  8 metre high chiseled walls and every now and then another waterfall frozen in time. No other human footprints were around, just the odd animal tracks – most likely Elk.

First glimpse of this cave
First glimpse of this awesome cave

It was then we came across our first and most impressive cave. Certainly was very exciting seeing this image come into view. The cave roof inside was at least ten metres tall and had two natural skylights. Very nice.

There's me in the entrance
There’s me in the entrance

The second cave was quite mystical, being located above a frozen waterfall and proved quite hard to access. However this one was ice plugged right at the start but just check out it’s location in the picture below!

See the second cave
See the second cave at the top right?

The third cave was cut into the face of the canyon wall and while easy to get to we didn’t really check it out. It was time to make the steep climb back out to the road and find the car.

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Just one of the splendid views encountered while trying to find a way across to the other side

In the words of Tim, the crazy carpeting day was “so amazing” even though we didn’t reach the Palisades viewpoint we set out for. After 8km and still 3.5km to go the snow became so deep that without snowshoes we had to turn back. But we came prepared and had a ball on the way home. I’d say we reached speeds of about 30km/h and made it back in half the time plus half the effort!

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Tim and I now loving these once leg burning slopes

Finding caves in Jasper

Between many hours of work for all of us in the house, there has been a rising fascination with caves, in particular the ones around Jasper.

Why are caves so fascinating? Maybe it’s their mysteriousness, their hidden entry points, or their link to the murky depths of hell? On second thoughts probably not the last one.

First and foremost they present an intriguing challenge to find by their generally vague location descriptions. It makes hiking the amazing countryside here have a definite goal and purpose and upon finding a cave, very rewarding. Like orienteering I guess.

We have discovered an in depth book titled “Caves of the Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains” by Jon Rollins. It presents so many caves that you are initially dumbstruck as to where to begin.

The book describes which caves are for experienced cavers so definitely no venturing into the depths of hell there. Perfect example being this cave we found – just a casual 30m drop down a vertical tube to begin with. Any takers? Apparently there are lots of animal bones down there too…and you wonder why!

Disaster Point caves
Disaster Point caves

We are well aware of the dangers of venturing into caves, and for now are sticking to just finding them. We have been lectured many times about the inherent dangers by one of our mad cave-enthusiast co workers Jon. There is no dedicated cave rescue team in the Canadian Rockies and being underground makes it a hundred times harder for someone to access you.

Also of interest is that most caves in the area require permits to enter and have cameras set up at there entrances to catch the intruders.

On our first caving exploration we had mixed results, finding the cave pictured above in 20 min but then spending hours searching for another one to no avail. But that’s part of the fun, knowing you are so close but having those elusive clues to it’s whereabouts slip through you fingers time after time.

The most mind blowing cave from the book is no doubt Castleguard Cave – it’s an enormous 20km long and 390m deep, making it the longest in Canada and the fourth deepest. Imagine discovering a cave that passes underneath a 3000m mountain and ends with a 200m thick glacier pushing through the roof.

Having said that the longest cave in the world, rightly named “Mammoth Cave” in Kentucky is 571km long!!!

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Disaster Point
Disaster Point