Castleguard Cave, Canada - 2010
March 22-24, 2010
I travelled from Nanaimo to Calgary, got the sat phone, organized gear, and began my obsessive cutting of weight, knowing I had been "volun-told" to be a bottle carrier. In the end a 45-litre bag held all of my gear. Well, on big trips I go light and fast and understand the commitment. If I get cold, I must move faster. If I carry in a jacket, I sleep in it so I can use a lighter sleeping bag etc.
March 25, 2010
I picked up temperature loggers (for the sump, to measure the temperature every hour for a year) on my way through Banff and began to worry about there being enough snow to ski on. Once at Rampart Creek my worries subsided, and excitement bubbled forth.
March 26-28, 2010
Jesse Mar tin, Claire Gougeon and I left Rampart Creek Hostel with sleds and back packs full, bound for the Icefield. Parking at the bigbend, our goal for this mini trip was twofold. First, we were to stash gear for the Castleguard trip at the bottom of the moraine, so we could conserve energy on the ski in to the Cave. Second, we would continue up the Saskatchewan glacier on to the Columbia Icefield proper, and “play”. We cruised through the flats and took our time skiing up the glacier. After caching our gear we headed into the white that enveloped the upper glacier and Icefield. At about 6:00 PM we found our camping spot and began digging. By 7:30 PM we had camp dug, the tent up and snow melting for dinner and the beloved hot-water bottle for bed. The nearby seracs kept us all half awake through the night as they sporadically roared down from their lofty perches.
The following day we skied onto the Icefield in whiteout, practiced a few turns, then broke camp. We skied down to the trees and made camp, opting to save our feet and energy for the upcoming slog.
An early morning start saw us back at the big bend and off to Jasper for a chocolate-milk binge, with time to dry and repack at the hostel. The rest of team one (the Christians and Heathens) trickled in (Jesse Mar tin, Claire Gougeon, Christian Stenner, Christian Chenier, Gael Herve and myself).
March 29, 2010
Martin Groves (the diver) and Ian McKenzie, who drove up late the previous night, handed out the dive gear. We were off, and it was snowing! In the flats it was partial whiteout, with no visible trail. Once on the glacier, visibility was reduced to 30 metres, some times less. Navigation was with a compass using the first person as a marker calling left or right. Once at the gear cache, we prepared for the moraine. Working as a team, haul stations were made and all the sleds and packs arrived tiredly to the top, with three hours until sunset. Weather had eased, but the constant trail breaking had worn the team. The trip in had it all, from having to pee on my bindings to get them to work again, to being the only member who had goggles in blasting whiteouts. It was finally finished when Christian Chenier found the cave en trance 15 hours after starting; truly an epic!
March 30, 2010
With an easy start to the day, we took a load of dive gear to Blunder Junction. Jesse and I went to check out the pools. The first three you can get by in rubber boots without getting wet, the fourth and fifth (yes fifth!) pools you will get wet – no way around it. Gael and Claire began surveying Boon’s Blunder, with Christian and Christian going back to camp to haul in the remaining dive gear. After checking out the pools, Jesse and I went into explore the parallel passage. The pools are very wet, and we found some new critter (for this cave), a potential Mycetophilidae species (fungus gnat).
Then we began our systematic exploring of every passage on our way back to Blunder Junction, which led to new dry passage! (It was surveyed by Christian C. and Gael later on) On the way out Christian C. gathered up some more phone cable that was exposed in the Ice Crawls.
March 31, 2010
We awoke early to yet another beautiful day. Christian Chenier and Gael went in to continue surveying around Blunder Junction. Jesse, Claire and the “other” Christian began packing and were off to Camp 1 by 12:00 PM. I decided to stay out of the cave and went ski touring to the Red Spring and area. The second group, consisting of six Brits, Gavin Elsley, Andrea Corlett, Andre Whitehouse, Greg Horne and Jurgen Deagle (the latter two park wardens) arrived after an eight-hour ski in assisted by snow machine to the moraine (through Greg’s good logistics). The night saw the flu bug’s first victim, one of the Brits. He spent all night puking.
April 1, 2010
A later morning saw everyone in camp getting organized to haul the dive gear to the sump. Two people per bottle and bulky bag; the rest had their own bag to carry. Interestingly all the heavy gear (dive bottles) made it to the sump first, by one hour, and we even marked the route for the rest! As it turns out that they stopped to photograph and pose, photograph and pose. Well after the hour wait at the sump, Andre, Garth and I headed back out (being a little cold and hungry). Greg Horne placed the temperature loggers in Boon’s Sump. When we surfaced Gavin and Andrea asked if I was willing to go on a trip to the Ice Plug.
The first group to Camp 1 made a surprise return trip out. Having looked at Holes-in-the-floor, a few members felt a little apprehensive so the team decided to exit the cave, have a rest day, and watch the dive the following day before skiing out.
Agreeing to go with Gavin, we packed camp and headed in at 6:00 PM. I set the pace and we moved quickly until the first fissure. It was here that I discovered that a party member was not as experienced as I had thought (I should have asked). The pace slowed greatly, which turned out to be a blessing. I was able to explore nooks, crannies and WOW the things I noticed, and saw! This cave is amazing! You have everything there, from troglobites to evaporates, glacial sedimentation, the list goes on, and on and on. I liked the place before from my previous trip the year before. I fell in love with it this year!
It took six hours to arrive to Camp 1. Well aware we would not make the Ice Plug I settled in for the night. Some interesting things were heard through the night: deep low-toned booming. Was it water or did Castleguard have a Balrog in its depths? I kind of slept awake, if it makes any sense.
April 2, 2010
After breakfast, we decided a five-hour turn around. Off across Holes-in-the-floor, past the cubical cave pearls through the Bitch Traverse (which is not that difficult). I’ll say it again – what an amazing cave! In a large well-decorated room just shy of Boon’s aven we turned around and headed back to Camp 1. But not before I had a quick look down, or should I say up, Thompson’s Terror.
Arriving back in camp, I cooked up dinner, and went to bed. Again a half-sleep night; it was as though I could just keep going. A little different and weird. At the sump, Martin dove a total length of 845 metres one way, to surface into a three-metre diameter phreatic tube (the second Sub way). Weighted down by his 60 kg of kit and flooded gloves, he could only listen to his voice scoop the virgin abyss which swallowed his torch light. During his lonesome survey trip back, he formulated plans for a 2012 trip with two divers on a continuous 24-hour push.
April 3, 2010
After breakfast we packed up camp. Not feeling so well I headed out with the rest. Once at the fourth pool I asked if they wouldn’t mind if I went ahead without them. An hour after I exited the cave they arrived back in entrance Camp. If you go to Castleguard, prep for the 18+km ski and do not forget there is a cave after the ski! Get your caving boots on and train with a heavy bag. Do lots of crawling. The first cave group in (the Christians and Heathens) had left in the morning, as had the park wardens, which left sleeping space for the group from Edmonton which arrived around 5:30 PM (Kevin Abma, Chantelle Abma, Nate DeBock, Monique Castonguay). The Brits had gone down the headwall in search of the Big Spring. Due to conditions and river levels they turned back, just shy. Mar tin had to repair his snowshoes again with dive line, phone cable, and zip ties. That evening my fears were confirmed: I had the bug that was going around camp.
April 4, 2010
The morning saw Gavin and Andrea snow shoeing out. Everyone else mobilized and headed into retrieve the dive gear from the sump after Martin’s downstream dive. Myself, I huddled on the gravel, outside, curled up in a ball enjoying the blessings of some sort of bug/flu/wickedness.
The dive proved to be as Martin predicted – uninspiring. It goes nowhere, and he spent 45 minutes figuring that out, definitively (he wanted no area over looked, so as to have a focused return trip). We also had visitors show up at the cave to see what the commotion was about. They snapped numerous photos, and through conversation came to the conclusion that we were all mad!
They then left to ski the avalanche-prone slopes.
April 5, 2010
Being ill, I decided to ski out with Martin and Peachy (another Brit). I had the joys of a beast of a bottle in my sled. In my delirium, I said good bye to two of the Brits who were going to camp on the glacier (I vaguely re member telling them to probe for crevasses before set ting up camp), and found myself at the vehicles waiting for Martin and Peachy. For some reason I drove (the hostel was closed), and I spent the night in the wash room of the Hostel Bear in Canmore. Now modern plumbing has its uses! On a funny note, Peachy had to use the washroom in the middle of the night, went and used the commons one but forgot which room we were in, so like a good caver he paused, looked, listened, and heard me in the washroom, AHH! and made his way back to bed. At the cave, the remaining Brits headed into the north end of the next scene to see what they could see. How’s a one-metre drafting phreatic tube 5/8 full of sediment, a project for the sherpas of the next dive trip. The Edmonton group camped at the Flood Depot, choosing not to go the first camp.
April 6, 2010
The remaining Brits exited and met up with us, plus Ian Mckenzie, and Chas Yonge at the Grizzly Paw pub for a pint or two. We heard that the Brits found more dry unsurveyed passage around the sump/junction.
This cave is just amazing!