Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Gargantua Cave

Aug. 1st, 2009.

The entrance to Gargantua cave is located on the southern flank of the massive Mt. Ptolemy (in the Crowsnest Pass.)

Great fun! Long day.

My friend Jollin organised the outing... We started out as a bigger group with some of Jollin's colleagues from Alberta Agriculture... The Alberta Ag gang were only interested in hiking to Gargantua and exploring the first chamber. To get up the cart road, one guy quad'd and another dirt biked while the rest of us used mountain bikes.

Jollin, Matt, Chris and I dragged along some climbing gear and our plan was to descend the first rappel, explore a bit of the second level and climb back up the rope with Jollin's ascender. We parted company with the Alberta Ag dudes after lunch as we wanted a head start on exploration in the caves...

We got to the entrance around 2PM and met some people who had done the full route before and they encouraged us to follow them and do the full route. They figured it would take only 3 hours (give or take). They were a family group from Kamploops/Lethbridge and had approached the cave from the B.C. side...

They went on ahead after the first rappel, but luckily we were always able to catch up to them at the subsequent rapelling stations... despite us getting lost a couple of times. The map was pretty confusing and there's no signage or anything in the caves, but once you find those rap stations you know pretty much where you are. Still, one time we went down the wrong chamber, another time Matt rappelled down too low into a big hole and the ropes got wedged somehow and we had to fashion a pully system to pull him back up.

Anyways, the 3 hour estimate was a tad off... we started around 2:30 PM and didn't exit until 8:30. By the time we got back to where we stashed our bikes it was after 10 PM and it was pretty dark... so the bike back was pretty exciting as it was almost pitch black and we had to do all those stream crossings - plus there was a electrical storm that was pretty cool... lots of lightening but we only got rained on for a few minutes.

Ended up back at the cars at 11:30 PM and only got back to town at 2 AM!


Craig said...

Hello from Kamloops

I was one of the family party that was there when you guys showed up at the cave enerance. Good to hear you had a good experience. It was my first time through also. I thoroughly enjoyed the cave with the five rappels and some tighter squeezes especially the "birth canal" to get out of the last chamber. Got some excelllent pictures. Was a difficult, arduous, but enjoyable hike from the BC side. We also ended up hiking for about a hour in the dark, buy finally reached the truck by about 11:00 pm, and home by about 2am. Was a huge day: up at 4am Saturday and back in bed by 3am Sunday....23hrs later! We were in the cave longer than we expected, but this was due to the seven of our party backed up at each of the five rappels. A huge electric storm chased us down the mountain, but never overtook us. Over all a spectacular hike to and through the cave. Will return next year with two more of our "kids"(21yrs and 23yrs old). Hopefully you guys can connect up with my nephew Ben (the guy that led us through)as he is passionate about the sport and goes often, and lives in Lethbridge. He is alwys looking for people that want to go. email me and I will give you his information if you lost it.
Mabe see you next year. Craig Lamb.

Anonymous said...

Hi Trevor,

I also have great memories of that trip. Sure a long day but complete adventure with you guys.I don't get to practice my crevasse rescue skills too often...

We have been lucky to met with the other group, because the book is not detailled enought to safely get to the exit. I took some notes and want to go back sometime. It would be good to do some more caving too. Serendipity would probably be my next destination. I might contact Ben.


Diana said...

Hi Craig,

A couple of us were thinking of checking out the Gargantua Cave, and I was reading your post about your nephew always looking for people who want to go. I would be scared about getting lost, so wouldn't mind having someone with us who's been there before. It would probably be about 4 - 6 of us. Diana

Craig said...

Hello Diana
Your comment came up on my Blackberry.....amazing technology! We are planning another trip to Gargantua on September 4th. There will be about 10 family in our party hiking from the BC side. I'm sure it would be fine if you guys followed along. You deffinately need rappelling experience in this cave. Give Ben a call at 14033273688 and he will let you know what to bring and what to expect. Maybe we'll see you there. It is an exceptional trip. Good luck.