Wrote from M’s Perspective

Have you ever wondered what it looks like inside of a mountain?

Well, to be honest, I never did, nor cared to ever adventure inside of a cave. Dark spaces, tight squeezes. This is not something that has ever appealed to me.

Ever.

In fact. It would give me anxiety just thinking about it.

Jordan, on the other hand, fell in love with caves at our first experience with them. “The Cave” located along Mumm Basin just off the Berg Lake trail, was our first. This cave was a small series of tunnel like formations. There are some tight spaces, but you can stand upright through the whole thing. Just something small and fun to explore along your hike, if dark spaces are your thing.

This way to The Cave.

They were not mine, and even with head lamps, this was not all that enjoyable.

Neat. But not quite enjoyable.

Sliding through.

Fast forward to Fang Mountain, located just over an hour east of Prince George. The Fang Mountain Cave is one the largest in Canada, ranking in around the 7th or 8th largest cave in the country. (Rankings change due to further exploration). Hiking up to Fang Mountain, the climb down to the cave entrance can be easily missed. You will know when you found the right spot as there is a large plaque stating you are now in Evanoff Provincial Park. Entering this large room with a head lamp each, and one flashlight to share was just incredible. The room was huge. The way the water ran through was peaceful.

Looking back to the entrance of the Fang Cave.
Looking back at the Fang Cave entrance from inside the cave.

But, adventure along far enough into this giant room of darkness, and you will soon fine yourself crawling on your hands and knees towards the area where experienced cavers rappel down into the real cave. We quickly realized that we should have each packed our own extra light instead of just sharing one. It was so dark that the light from our headlamps was almost completed absorbed by the darkness.

Of course, I went along with it, but the moment Jordan told me we could head back, I went as fast as I could out of there, and I had the extra light.

That’ll learn him.

Just kidding babe, I love you!!

Over a year later, we are booking an early January trip to Canmore to do some epic ice climbing with Ridgeline Guiding Services. While looking around all the websites to see what else to do while we are there, I come across a company doing cave tours. I knew if I told Jordan about it that he would want to go so I had to mentally prepare myself that I would soon enough be squeezing through the Rats Nest Cave found in Grotto Mountain. I phoned Canmore Cave Tours and was lucky enough to talk to there awesome Office Manager, who reassured me I wasn’t go to die in the cave. So of course, we booked the tour.

Fast forward to the day of the tour. We approach the entrance area, and the nerves begin to set in. Can I really do this? We had a private tour that early morning, so it was only us and our cave guide, Brent.

Heading to the prep area

Brent did an excellent job explaining everything. We get in and things are seemingly going well. We do our first “squeeze” that seemed so small at that point, later realizing I could have been 5x my current size and still made it through.

Bring on the 18m rappel.

Please note, if you ever chose to go on the Rats Nest Cave tour, the rappel is not mandatory. You can bypass it.

Heading down

I have very little experience rappelling. In fact, the first time I ever did it was the day before on a frozen waterfall. Even though I knew I was completely safe as Brent had me on a safety line, my nerves were still rattled as I lowered myself down into this foreign dark space. At one point, I missed the cue to swing out and somehow managed to wedge myself in a small rock crevice. Not my best moment; however, Brent reassured me it was totally normal because if I were an expert, I wouldn’t need to be on a tour. And then he did mention Jordan was pretty much an expert, but Jordan is an almost-expert at everything he does.

After the rappel, I settled down. Once again, that sense of serenity came over me. It felt peaceful. I had a flashback moment to Fang Cave, remembering how calm I felt listening to the water run by. We begin to do smaller squeezes, exploring every little space we can. We check out a new dig site, and crawl through a space with a height equivalent to the length of my feet. We learn about stalactite and stalagmite (aka Rock Poo) and how it only grows at a rate of 0.13mm per year, and this stuff is huge so you know its old.

We go through a very small squeeze (well, to me anyways), where I instinctively know to shape my body and limbs to the shape of the space and get through. And then Brent says the best thing he could say all day… “Hey, great technical caving skills!”

Look at me go!!

Squeezing through on my back, twisting my body so it can make it through

We reach the Grotto, where the slow running water is the first sound in the cave made by something that is not us. The water is crystal clear. We are in a room of cave formations that are hundreds of centuries old. The Grotto was the last spot on the tour. Its time to head out.

The Grotto

(Check out their IG for better photos… @canmorecavetours)

Being inside a mountain for 4 hours taught me a few things. One being that caves are not actually all that scary, but full of these wondrous formations. The sense of being inside of this magnificent mountain, where no light has ever seen gives brings you to this state of wanderlust, continuously wanting to explore more.

Two, you can really contort your body, even through the smallest of spaces and it isn’t that bad.

And three, being with awesome people can really help you harness your own awesomeness. #CoolerByAssociation (Thank you to our guide, Brent and Canmore Cave Tours for this awesome and mind-changing experience!)

Bonus learning: Caving is actually enjoyable, and extremely kick-ass.

If you want to learn more about caves or want to get into cave exploration, I highly recommend going on a tour and learning everything there is to know about proper cave etiquette, how to respect the “Rock Poo” and other formations, and ensuring that you are always moving through safely. Cave exploration can be dangerous if you don’t know where you are going, don’t have proper gear, and are new to cave exploration. I highly recommend Canmore Cave Tours for your first experience. No, this is not an ad, nor was I paid to write this. I actually really loved my first real caving experience, and they were very accommodating, reassuring, experienced and knowledgeable, and all around, just super kick-ass.

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