Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Crawl, wriggle, and squeeze in some adventure - Go Caving!

Caving has always been on the adventure list of things to do with my family.  Vancouver Island, or as cavers like to call “Island of the Caves”, has more explored limestone caves than all other Canadian provinces combined.  4% of Vancouver Island’s surface area is karst landscape making it the highest concentration of caves in North America. (Source: cancaver.ca)  With just over 1000 documented caves and some 1800 more thought to be out there, the time had come for us to venture to the dark side! 

A spacious cave entrance perfect for the whole family.
Spelunking is the act of exploring caves and it is a perfect fit for us.  We already rock climb so some of our gear can be used for both sports.  Caving fuels our passion for outdoor adventure by exploring new places and trying new things.  Bonus is the caving community happens to be full of warm, inviting, and the most encouraging group of people I have ever met.  One of the oldest caving organizations in Canada, the Vancouver Island Cave Exploration Group (VICEG) is open to anyone interested in speleology. VICEG works to conserve caves for the appreciation of future generations and members are not thrill seekers rather they explore, study, and locate caves while promoting safe caving practices, fellowship, and bring awareness to cave conservation.

Recently my family and I were invited to attend a VICEG event called the Midwinter Madness held at Horne Lake Caves.  Here members, family and friends gathered for two days to enjoy a variety of caving activities.  We had the opportunity to get some hands on experience in rope descends, climbed down cable ladders, rappelled into caves, learned about cave mapping, watched cave search and rescue scenarios, and enjoyed group cave tours with fellow cavers.  In between all these fascinating activities were caving stories told by veteran B.C. cavers and home movies of caving trips from Vancouver Island and around the world.  It was a weekend full of adventure, fun, friendships and knowledge.
Liv descending 20ft on a cabble ladder into a cave
Prior to this caving event our time spent underground was minimal.  We began caving as a family back in July 2012 at Upana Caves near Gold River.  Even though this was a first for us, I treated caving like any other outdoor adventure we did; prepared the gear, researched online, and had conversations with Ben and Liv about what we were doing and what to expect.  That first trip was successful by all accounts and left us wanting more cave adventures.  We picked up caving again in Dec 2012 (thanks to a story I was working on) when we met some amazing cavers who really showed us what caving is all about.  Aside from adventure and exploration, caving offers a wide selection of activities and interest.  Photography, biology, geology, archeology, surveying, mapping, search and rescue, and conservation can all be enjoyed while caving.

What kid would not love to wriggle into a hole in the ground?
One entrance into Andre's Annex at Horne Lake Caves

For the past three months we have explored several caves on Vancouver Island and the knowledge, skills, and friendships we have developed is amazing.  Caving provides the four of us an opportunity to adventure together while satisfying our own interests.  For me, finding caves is what I like best. How caves are made, where to find them, and in what type of landscapes is what interests me.  I could hike through forests looking up and down ancient creek beds for cave entrances all day if I had to.  Joel’s interest is the technical side of caving.  He enjoys using and learning about the specialized equipment required for caving; like ropes, harnesses, safety gear, and search and rescue related activities.  Pushing deeper into the darkness not knowing what lies ahead is exhilarating for some and terrifying for others.  This is what Ben (7) enjoys the most about caving and the tighter the passage the better.  His caving gear is by far the dirtiest of all.  What interests Liv (5) is what lies deep within the cave.  Caves are home to many critters; spiders, crickets, moths, salamanders, and bats.  She is quick to point them out and often can give me an accurate tally of how many crickets we just crawled past.  I hope she never counts a bear!

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