A little over a year ago, I came out to Alberta for a visit. During that time, Kelly & I made a getaway to the mountains near Jasper. We hiked, climbed, and caved.
Being my first caving experience, we decided to start by aiming high with Disaster Point: a very technical cave involving multiple rappels into a hole in the ground. Without rope, you can’t even get close to the entrance, and you would certainly have a “disaster” on your hands if you were in the cave and lost your rope. (Okay, so maybe not the best cave to have chosen as a first for me, but there you have it).
So, as a newbie caver, I absolutely froze when I suddenly realized I was over 30 metres underground, I was cold, and I was looking up at an icy hole as my route back to the outside world. Before bottoming the cave, we got the heck out.
Fast forward to September of 2007: once again at Disaster Point’s doorstep.
First, let me tell you how we got there.
Kelly & I and our friend Luc have been out climbing a few times this summer, and in so doing have shared many ideas for big backcountry trips we’d like to take. Caves came into the conversation a few times, and more specifically a cave called Arctomys frequented our thoughts.
Arctomys, located near Mount Robson (the highest in the Canadian Rockies) in BC, is North America’s deepest cave. Although not hugely technical, it commands an elite caving crowd, due in part to its remoteness; it is located over 16kms from the nearest road. It has seen only a handful of people ever explore the cave, much less reach the bottom.
So what a great trip this would make, we thought. We could do a real backcountry trip, set up base camp near the cave, and spend a week exploring the cave, the nearby mountains, fish on our rest days, and enjoy the serenity of being away from it all.
And although Arctomys cave isn’t as technical a cave as others, it can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing or don’t have proper communication with your teammates. Which brings me to the trip we took this past weekend.
Originally our sights were set on Cadomin cave, a well-known cave near Hinton. However, caves are very precarious environments, and even somebody’s breath changing the air patterns in a cavern can kill any creatures that might be in there hibernating (eg: spiders, bats). And being a huge bat hibernaculum, the province bars access to Cadomin from September through May.
We, of course, only discovered this when we arrived at the cave, ready to go!
Ah well. On to Plan B, which was Disaster Point.