To Boldly Go…. Part I
This week instead of one large adventure we took the relaxed approach of attempting two mini adventures. The first adventure was to finish the Maligne Canyon Cave, aka the “Nasty Cave”. Located in the Maligne Canyon under the fourth bridge. Chris and I had explored this cave twice before, and we decided to go in one more time and actually complete it. This cave was surveyed in 1975 and the people surveying estimated its size to be about 375 metres. That’s quite an extensive underground system.
Now this cave is unique in a few ways. First off it is part of the underground Karst system that is feeding into Maligne Canyon, so in the summer it is filled up with water, and even would have water flowing out of it in some cases (not a pleasant thought when you are crawling around inside of it!). Second off, the only way you know it is there is if someone tells you, (I’m not sure how the person who discovered it would have found it!). The entrance is underneath a rock overhang and tends to be completely covered in ice. Chris came in a couple of weeks before and smashed the ice open so we could access the cave.
Once inside the cave the beginning doesn’t seem so bad, that is until you crawl around a little bit and realize how wet, dirty and cold it is in there. I think most people probably wouldn’t go too far past the beginning of the cave, as it gets quite technical. After crawling through a rough shelf of rock the next thing is to crawl into a hole, feet first with a strange contortion of the body (see the blog, can you fit through a hanger), while water pours off of the ceiling onto your face. Once past that point you are thoroughly soaked but the going is a little easier (no standing up though) for about 20 metres when you hit a difficult and confusing section of the cave. There are two ways to go at this point and it has confused us each time we had been in the cave.
Last year when we did this cave I had felt much braver then I did at this point. I had one of my “moments” and would have turned around if Chris hadn’t been there to give me a bit of an encouraging push to keep me going. Odd as last year it was the other way around, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to get stuck in the cave and it was very difficult to keep my body and fear under control. After getting around this confusing section the next part of the cave is probably one of the most unpleasant things I have ever done. For about 25 metres you have to crawl on your stomach, and do not even have enough room to have your head or feet up and down, they only fit sideways!! For this section you can feel the roof of the cave on your back while you are inching along the floor like a worm or snake! No time for claustrophobia!! It gets a little better further in the cave and there’s even a little bit when you can be on hands and knees. The next difficult point I fondly term the “squisher” It requires some readjusting of body parts to get through, and as I discovered, wearing bulky clothing doesn’t make this part of the passage any easier!! Again the going gets a little simpler past this section and we were able to crawl on hand and knees instead of stomach and chest. Soon we came to the area known as “The big room” I think this was a bit of the joke on the part of the people who surveyed and drew the map of the cave. You can at least stand up at this point but it isn’t exactly what I would call a “room”!
The last section of the cave has two off shoots, one left and one right that we explored as far as we could get. The first one just gets narrower and narrower until you really would have to be a worm to get any further, and the second one descended into a pool of water. There was a bit of room above the water so maybe we could have gone through it but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it! The water looked fairly deep, and although we were already wet it just seemed a little too sketchy to be wading through and unknown depth of water with only about a foot of clearance above it (maybe next time). This was our turn around point and I pretty much consider this cave “Completed” and really have no desire to go back. We are both pretty sure not many people go through this cave system and although it is unpleasant there is something special about Boldly Going where very few go before you. Stay tuned for part II coming up in a few days!
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