Spring 2013 Trip Reports

 

January 7, 2013

Adam Walker, Chas Yonge, Gavin Elsely, Katie Graham, Charlene Barker and Nicholaus Vieira

The team drove to Golden, BC the night before to chance that the access to the cave would be open in the morning. Nerves and energy abounded and I am sure some were awake a little earlier than necessary. We were all up early and met for a large breakfast and discussed the days plans. This was the first "familiarization" trip for the newer members to the team.

After sorting their annual permits at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre we went to the parking area and began the trek in. We had 3 bottles and other assorted equipment split between the six of us.

Once at the cave we changed and organized in two teams of three. Team one was Adam, Gavin and Katie, their task was to go to the last survey station up stream and begin surveying. Team two Chas, Charlene and Myself were to move up to sump 2 installing glue-ins and do some photography.

Once through the first sump we made our way through the cave pointing out the named features, explained where certain passages lead etc. At the Kracken I stopped to install the Glue-ins but was met with a set back as the dispenser was not mixing the adhesive correctly, I tried but failed to fix the problem (it was a new foil package as well), oh well. I continued up the passage to sump 2 to reunite with Chas and Charlene. We then began our return toward the entrance taking some photos along the way. Conveniently my flashes and triggers failed and I was stuck with light painting to get the shots. We met team one on their way out having surveyed to a third sump! This cave is continuously surprising us. This is going to change the tactics, we will begin to have teams start pushing the climb in Freedom 65 in an attempt to bypass the sumps in the stream way. While we have a team push through Sump 3 and beyond.

 

January 18th, 2013

Chas Yonge, Christian Stenner, and Nicholaus Vieira

We drove into Glacier National Park of Canada once we knew that the area was open. Stopping in to the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre to get Christian's annual winter restricted area permit and to inform Parks employees we were going to the cave, we then went to the parking lot. It was a quick snowshoe in as we had light packs. The focus of today's trip was "familiarization" for Christian and pushing an Aven. near the entrance in hopes of a sump bypass. We stopped in the entrance area just to change and for some quick pictures. We then headed to our lead. Christian wasted no time in scampering up into the ceiling to find that it narrowed into an impenetrable crack, a dead end. We then checked out a possible lead closer to the ground, but found the way on too tight for the members of the team. Something for Gavin and Katie, maybe. It was quite nice to see that nobody on the team minds being in the 2-3 degree Celsius  water in their 5mm wetsuits. We headed back after an easy day with a lead finished, we would be back in time to get a good night rest before working the next day. Even Christian had to teach first aid in the morning.

 

January 24th, 2013

Jeremy Bruns, Katie Graham, and Nicholaus Vieira

I had to turn down work the night before to make sure that the planned date was to go ahead as planned. The days goals were twofold. The first was to place the microbial sampling equipment through the cave, in the process rig a permanent fixed line into Freedom 65. For the second part we would then do the overhanging slab climb in Freedom 65 to attempt to bypass the upper sumps, Sump 2 and 3.

We had left early in a chance to maximise our time in the cave, but when we finally arrived into Golden, it was 08:40 time to check to see if the area was open... Craps, Closed our gambling had failed. We have driven close to 300km before finding out it was a no go. We quickly chatted about what we could do to salvage the day, whilst I consoled myself with a gas station burrito. We continued the remaining 70km to the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre in Glacier National Park so that Jeremy could get his annual winter restricted access permit. This would speed up the access to the cave by saving us 14km of driving and the time spent getting the daily permit for all other trips while the winter permit system is in place. We then drove to Canmore, Alberta where Jeremy and Katie played with the Quebec developed in cave survey program Auriga. This is the program we are using for data entry in Raspberry Rising.

I have been asked why do we work on the project in winter? Why not in the Summer, when we would not have to worry about the Winter Restricted Access Permit System? I have repeatedly replied that the water flow is too fast and too much to allow access into the cave, let alone attempt the dive. I made a short video of the cave entrance in Summer.

Not an easy cave to access.

 

January 27, 2013

Christian Stenner, Jeremy Bruns, and Nicholaus Vieira

Meeting at 08:00 Christian and I were off to Banff to pick up Jeremy. The area was posted Open by the time Jeremy had his equipment in Christians vehicle. Show time! We made good time to Glacier National Park (245km away) arriving at the parking lot we packed the remaining gear, then began the 2 km approach burdened by our loads. Sweating we arrived at the frozen entrance where we left our snowshoes, ducking into the cave we changed for the trip through Sump 1 and beyond.

At the sump we packed the microbial sampling kits into Rocket tubes and dove through. A top the Nick Point we moved to the first of 10 pre-determined sampling locations. At each location we would record the soils temperature, location within the cave, collect a soil sample for pH determination (general), soil sample for microbial life, and we would leave plates (Petri dishes) at each location (swabbed and open). We also photographed each site. The plates will be left in place until April/May, where one trip will be focused on collecting the samples etc (we have partnered with Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops BC for the microbial sampling). This will be a part of our Biological record of what life we have encountered during the exploration of the cave. Last year we had began recording larger life forms (insects etc) we have come across during our mapping trips (which we continue today).

The locations of the sampling locations saw us return to many areas only visited by us once, during the mapping of those passages. In the well decorated and fragile Freedom 65 passage we flagged routes to limit the impact of any future visitor, by designating the trail in which they will follow.

During our marathon through the cave we also staged a Scuba cylinder at the top of the Kracken to assist with the push through Sump 3, later this week hopefully. I also finally had a chance to place the glue-ins at the Kracken, and fix a rope for the climb into Freedom 65. A very successful day!

Everyone was feeling the trip today (Jan 28th, 2013) after all I arrived in Canmore at 01:45 with the others driving on to Calgary. We all had to work today to boot.

 

February 1, 2013

Christian Stenner, Diana Kirkwood, and Nicholaus Vieira

A Raspberry day,..  but at 08:30 the area was posted Closed (this was a little disappointing as Diana drove 8+hr to go into Raspberry). Time for plan B.

 

May 6th, 2013

Katie Graham, Gavin Elsley, and Nicholaus Vieira

Waking at 06:00 in Golden, BC only 45 minutes from Glacier National Park where Raspberry Rising is located, gave us a good edge to accomplish the goals for the trip and be out of the cave at the warmest parts of the day to avoid potentially being trapped above sump 2 by rising waters. The planned trip was to dive sump 3, survey it, and discover what the next obstacle we would face is. Cave exploration is exciting in the fact that you have no idea what is beyond your head lamps reach or around the next corner, you have to go there to find out!

We parked and began the approach in the warm early morning sunshine moving through the trees and onto the open avalanche slopes picking our way through the carnage from the winters avalanches. Changing into the dive equipment we moved to the sump taking with us the equipment needed to explore sump 3 (various instruments, slates, fins, dive line, safety spools etc.) and the equipment to retrieve the microbial sampling plates placed in the cave in January. We would stash the collections equipment at the furthest collections station in the cave, then concentrate on sump 3 and derigging the upper streamway for the season.

The dive in went without incident, once on the other side of sump 1 we split the gear up and began the trip to the Kracken to pick up a Scuba cylinder stashed for this push earlier in the year. Moving through the cave we noticed that the usual easy climbs in cascades were much more difficult with the water velocity almost knocking your feet out from underneath you, and the knee high pools were now waist deep. This was definitely the last trips of the season.

We arrived at sump 2 with bulging packs, Gavin lead the way into the low crawl where one can hold their breath for a meter to pass the sump without using dive equipment. After 10m in the crawl Gavin went first, feet flailing he resurface. He had gotten caught in the underwater passage. I crawled over Katie and Gavin and went through, it was quick and soon they were passing bags through to me. They quickly followed. We grabbed the bags and began the climbs up to the low swims that preceded sump 3.

On arrival I donned my dive mask, as they prepared the dive equipment, sticking my head below the surface of the water to see if the equipment was needed or not. No air in sight with a large passage descending with a course gravel slope leading into the blackness. With the equipment ready I donned all the required equipment, belayed my diveline and gave them my return time. I slipped beneath the surface and began finning my way through the sump belaying the line when appropriate. The surface! the sump was short and wide (16m). In front of me lay large walking passage. I tied off the diveline removed the dive equipment then carefully moved my way up the passage understanding how isolated I was. After 80+m I started laughing another sump, sump 4. I checked my watch, seeing that I had time, I returned to my dive equipment moving it upstream to sump 4. I kitted up, belayed the diveline and squeezed through the narrow opening into the frigid waters. At once the passage became very large (around 3m by 3m), not having much line I swam to the end of the reel not seeing any air. I floated there staring into the dark waters thinking this is a game changer. I reeled my line in on my return to the surface going through the options. Camping beyond this next obstacle will likely be necessary, for safety purposes. I moved through the dry passage to sump 3 carrying my equipment. Kitting up I surveyed sump 3 on my return to Gavin and Katie who had been waiting shivering on the downstream side of sump 3. I relayed the news of what lay beyond, this sump. We packed the equipment being glad to get moving for warmth, but also aware that we were pushing the season with the rising waters. We derigged the large waterfall below sump 3 (If the ropes were left in place they would be destroyed with the summer torrent). Everyone passed through sump 2 without incident. We stopped at the Kracken to derig the 6m high waterfall and sort the equipment. We exited the cave through sump 1 into beautiful blue skies filling our bags with equipment removed from the cave. It will require tomorrows trip to finish the remaining tasks and derig. I hope it does not get too much warmer as the water was coming slowly up.

 

May 7th, 2013

Adam Walker, Chas Yonge, and Nicholaus Vieira

Nervous tension, this is the feeling weighing on our minds and stirring in our stomaches. The water was bound to be higher. We left in a single vehicle at 06:00 from Canmore, AB to Glacier National Park, BC. The trip was passed by explaining to Adam and Chas what was discovered yesterday, and what it meant for the progression of the exploration. We talked about tactics, considerations and the direction of focus for the fall trips. We knew this would be our last trip in for the Spring, soon the water would rise and turn this amazing cave into a torrent death trap making any attempt to enter the cave suicidal. Our focus today was the derigging of the ropes and the collection of the microbial sample plates place in the cave at the end of January.

Arriving at Rogers Pass we began the approach on foot up the wood debris strewn avalanche slopes to the cave entrance. The water was higher than when I had left the cave the previous day. We quickly changed into our thin wetsuits, and caving gear. Moving up to where the dive equipment was stored I found some of it in the water, what was once a beach is now part of this underground river, speed would be a very important part of the plan.

With everyone kitted up we began the approach to the beginning of the sump by swimming through a low canal but found we had to start using the dive equipment earlier than normal as water as now centimetres from the ceiling. The underwater squeeze went well in the near zero visibility and I emerged to see Chas and Adam dekitting on the beach, the roar from the Nick point was thunderous even through the neoprene hoods of our wetsuits. Leaning close to each other we yelled to clarify the change of plans.

I left them at the top of the Nick point moving through the cave quickly to S.99 and collected the samples there (where we let the equipment the day before). I then back tracked to S.85 where we met up and divvied up the collections equipment and went over the collections process.

We split up again to cover the most ground in the quickest way possible. Chas returned down the stream way collecting the plates and soil samples (pH), then up into the Dream Collector. While Adam and I went up into Freedom 65 and retrieved the samples there. I am very curious as to what the results will be. The collections plates had different Agar mediums and you could see orange, white, black and sometimes pink bacterial cultures on the plates. At each sample station you could tell one of the Agar mediums was "better" than the other at promoting growth. Some photos, and short video was attempted with my broken camera. After collecting the 5 stations we dropped back into the raging water that was now stained with tannin, speed was getting more and more important.

Adam and I arrived at the designated meeting spot with no Chas in sight. So I continued down to the last collections point while Adam headed up the Dream Collector to check on and find Chas. We would meet at the top of the Nick point.

Head lamp illuminated the darkness announcing Adam's and Chas' arrival. I handed over the samples and they descended the 25m in the torrential spray beside the waterfall, Adam following Chas untying the knots so I could pull up the rope. After some while his signal of flashing light was seen against the far wall of the pit. I pulled up the rope and stored it high out of the flood zone, then using a second rope I did a "pull down" moving from belay to belay until landing safely beside my shivering team mates (the water temperature is 3C). We kitted up and dove through the sump feeling our way along the diveline and fighting a mild current. We moved all of our gear to the entrance feeling relieved to be out in the sun again, but not at the sight of the pile of equipment we had to carry down the mountain (4 Scuba cylinders, plus all of our dive gear, caving gear, safety gear, microbial collections etc).

What a great trip exploring an amazing cave. I cannot wait until the fall. Sump 4 and beyond, plus the fossil sections yet to explore.

I sent the Microbial sampling plates to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC the following morning. I am very curious as to what discoveries might be made.

 

People who assisted to make this project a success:

A HUGE thank you goes out to the Royal Canadian Geographic Societies Expeditions Program who graciously sponcered this years project. Thank you also goes out to the Rennie/Clark Memorial Fund, The Alberta Speleological Society Special Projects fund, and Phil Whitfield for at donated 150m of rope, as well as the wise council given. Special thanks goes out to Alberta Karst Consulting, who kindly paid for Hotel costs and fuel for the majority of the trips. Aquasport Scuba Center thanks for the sale pricing. 

My final thank you is for the team members who dove the sumps with me to explore and survey, may we make great discoveries this Fall/Winter season.