Pictures of my Trip to the Rat's Nest Cave
My Canon Powershot a520 Shutter Stopped working in the Cave
Our trip to the Rat's Nest Cave started in Canmore at the Sobeys near the town of Banff, Alberta. Here we were supposed to meet our guide. We were a group of 3 friends, there were also 3 other men and a lone female, a couple of guys from Australia and a couple on their honeymoon from Boston.
While we waited for our guide, we went to the bathroom because there is none by the cave except a bunch of trees for the guys and a lady's rock for females. We also took advantage of the Sobeys to buy some water and power bars.
Dave our guide from Canmore Caverns arrived. He explained a few things and he made us sign that waiver form, if you ever die we are not...You know what I mean. He also checked our shoes to see if they had enough grip for the wet and muddy cave. We gave him the $120 fee and we followed him to the parking lot of the Grotto Mountain about ten minutes away on Highway 1A towards Calgary.
From there we divided the equipment between us and we packed it in a small backpack, also provided by the company. They truly provide everything, you name it: coveralls, lights, helmets, gloves, harnesses and even kneepads. We tried everything to make sure that it fitted properly. He also made sure that we knew how to use everything safely.
The only thing you need to bring is some beverages and a small snack.
The caravan followed up the mountain, very slowly, almost to a turtle pace, and Dave stopped once in awhile to tell us about the names of the magnificent mountains around us, of its geology and its "zillion" years of existence. He was quite well informed and knew his stuff. We passed a no trespassing sign. Shortly after, we arrived at the entrance of the cave. The place is private property since it belongs to a quarry. It's quite funny but you enter at your own risk even when they are outside blowing dynamite and the cave has seizures.Thankfully it never happened when we were there. Dave confidently assured me that they check the cave regularly for any signs of instability. Sure, that made me feel so much better...
The entrance to the cave is usually locked but on that day some people had cut the chain. There were beer cans spread out all through the trail and also in the cave. This human imprint was a sick reminder of what man can do to its environment.
Right at the entrance, Dave showed us a native painting, a man with a spear. It was hard to recognize, it was slightly faded but when Dave pointed the parts of the body, the image became clearer to us.
There was also some sticks and leaves brought into the cave by some sort of bushy tailed rat. He was getting himself ready for the winter. I never saw what the animal looked like.
Something else that I found extremely interesting was the buffalo bones spread throughout the cave. As we know, buffalos were exterminated in the region for over hundreds of years. So those bones have been there for a long time. The rats brought them there. They still chew on them.
We had to go through some tight walls before we got to the 60 feet drop. From there we have to watch the other people in front of you go down. Dave explains what to do and double checks everything before going down. It takes about 5 to 10 minutes. When we went down we followed the wall and are never far from it. I was disappointed because I thought I was going to be suspended completely in mid air. We are also connected by another rope to Dave and he controls the speed we can go down. We are never allowed to free drop. Too bad, but I can understand them being so careful. This is definitively a place to take pictures. That's when my brand new Canon digital camera quit on me. I fixed it somewhat and was able to take a few more pictures later on.
Another interesting place in this cave is called laundry chute. There is no laundry there. The cavers are the laundry. You squeeze yourself through on your back dropping slowly by pushing yourself for about 50 feet. Time in there felt like an eternity. If your are claustrophobic or weight watchers material this may not be the place for you.
As we descend deeper, we find more interesting features such as intricate channels, calcite columns, cave pearls, cauliflower formations, animal ears, soda straws.
The climax of the trip is when you reach a colorful chamber filled with gigantic mineral formations kissed by trickling water slowly descending its walls. At the bottom of the formation, there is a pool of clear glacier water. It's a pleasure to get your lips wet and taste it.
The return trip is very fast as we took a shortcut towards the exit. After spending so much time in the darkness, it is a euphoric moment to see the first beams of light.
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