Tag Archives: Caving

Feeling Zippy

Itchy head after wearing a helmet all day.

I woke up this morning feeling refreshed, rested, non-headachy, and ready for adventure1. Fortunately for me, adventure was exactly what this doctor had on order. Specifically, adventure in the form of zip-lining with Rick and Jasper2.

The morning started off with a trip to Starbucks (of course) for go-go juice and a lunch order. It may or may not have also included banana chocolate chip muffins, because zip-lining demands such sugary treats. After purchasing the necessary fares we were off to Elora, and before long we were strapping into our safety gear, putting on our helmets, setting our figure eight clips, and learning the ins and outs of rappelling down the side of a cliff.

Apart from the different equipment and knots, this was all very old-hat for Rick and me as we’d learned how to do this during our caving and our ice-climbing adventures. Regardless, being good students we paid close attention. Rick was the first victim over the edge, and as always, he made everything look easy. Jerk. Ha! After a guided rappel each, we were allowed to venture over the cliff on our own. Good times.

Flying through the air. W00t!

Once everyone was comfortable controlling the speed of descent and proving they could handle stopping should they need to, we moved on to the zip-line area. It wasn’t long before we were strapped in and taking a giant running leap off the cliff. The zip-line had us flying across the gorge and over the raging3 river below. Awesome.

Our zip was set to automatically stop three-quarters of the way across the gorge. This allowed for some excellent views of the river below and the scenery around us. Once we were ready, we had a controlled rappel to the river – stopping about 2ft above the water. Definitely an excellent experience given that the waters were quite muddy, raging, and threatening enough to pull us quickly downstream should we actually fall in.

After chatting with our instructor Kevin, Jasper, Rick and I have decided that we are going to try to organize another adventure with him. This time however will be another caving adventure later in the fall.

Because what’s a grand adventure if it doesn’t end with plans for more adventuring?

1 It’s amazing what a few hours of sleep and a headache curing kitty named Elliot will do for me.

2 I’d say that this makes our zip-lining adventure an unofficial meeting of Nerd Caucus. However, with only three of us there, I’m not sure we can say that quorum was achieved. I’ll have to check our charter.

3 Thanks to all of the recent rain.

A Note On Classy Bitches

Who drinks mountain top scotch? Classy bitches, that's who.

On Saturday I wrote that All The Classy Bitches Drink Mountain Top Scotch, and while those words were clearly true, they didn’t tell the entire story. That is, classy bitches do drink mountain top scotch, but they also scree down the mountain after consuming mountain top scotch. Because who wants to hike 2 hours back down a mountain when one can scree down the mountain in 25 minutes? Suckers, that’s who. And we are clearly not suckers. We’re classy bitches. And classy bitches scree. Write that down kiddies.

As luck would have it, both Rick and I had cameras that would record 1080p video of the adventure. So, after much discussion and hours of editing we present for your viewing pleasure the screeing descent from Nihahi Ridge – Classy Bitches style. You are welcome.

But wait. There’s more. On Sunday, Rick and I headed to Rat’s Nest Cave for a little adventure in cave exploring. Since my battery was essentially dead, Rick took the reigns and captured the following little video for you. The video takes place when we were introduced by Russell, our fearless guide, to the Laundry Shoot. The video will give you a bit of an idea of how awesome it was. Or for those of you that might be claustrophobic, how tiny it was. And you should know, this was not the tiniest cave we entered. Rick, Chloe and I conquered the ‘cave challenge’ and it was way smaller than this. Enjoy!

It’s A Dark Wet Hole. It Must Be Fun.

Looking sexy and ready to do some caving.

Yesterday Rick and I went caving, and I can sum up the adventure with one word:


It was an incredible experience. Absolutely incredible. I’ve gone caving before with my brother many years ago, and Rick and I did some caving when we were exploring Hawaii and also at Rattlesnake Point, but this was caving on an entirely different level.

As with all of our adventures, the day began with a requisite visit to Starbucks, and then we were on our way to Canmore to meet our caving guide Russell and four of Rick’s friends; Chloe, Sanjay, Rachna, and Roshan.

Yup, it's really called Rat's Nest Cave

The adventure itself took place in Rat’s Nest Cave. Despite the fact that the name might read as some place that most wouldn’t want to go, after strapping on our gear (harness, knee pads, overalls, helmets, headlamps, and smiles) we dove in. Pretty much literally. The beginning of the cave consisted of a short descent while attached to guide lines. Not too challenging, and definitely in an area where room was readily available.

We eventually made our way to the area of the cave where we needed to rappel to a lower level. I’ve never rappelled into anything, but it was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. Of course, I was the last in the line for our group so I sat around for a bit while I waited for each person to, in turn, drop into the lower layers of the cave. Once it was my turn, Russell quickly set me up and then I jumped into position. My first few steps were a bit, um, shaky. But I think this was mainly due to not knowing what I was doing or how to really step (despite some very clear instructions from Russell), and not so much a function of nerves, because I wasn’t nervous at all. Once I got the general feeling for it, I made my way to the bottom of the cave without incident. I definitely want to do some more of that.

Happy to be here!

The environment of course was not to be an open one for long. That is, we soon found ourselves in some very tight, and for some of us, uncomfortable situations. For whatever reason, most of these tight squeezes don’t freak me out (too much). Don’t get me wrong; there is an air of discomfort, and my mind sometimes says what the hell are you doing? but it passes quickly and I just push on through wherever I’m going.

I guess my mettle was first tested when we were presented with an offshoot from one of the main caves we were in. Sanjay crawled into it head first on his belly. I decided I’d go on my back, but realized immediately that this wasn’t going to work for me. Not because I was freaked out, but because I had a bunch of snacks stuffed in my pants that were getting in the way. Anyway, after adjustments and such, I followed Sanjay’s example and crawled on my belly. On the other end of the tube was a small cave that allowed those of us that crawled through a chance to sit and relax. We gave ourselves a minute to recoup, and then turned around to return to Russell and the remaining members of our group.

I'm loving this. Clearly.

Next up, the Laundry Shoot. The Laundry Shoot is essentially a straight and narrow drop that suddenly requires a 90 degree turn once you get to the bottom of it. You then have to crawl a little way until you hit another patch where you just slide down a tear shaped tube. It was awesome. While Chloe dove in head first right from the start, I opted to go feet first for the initial drop, then switch it up and go head first for the second drop. Amazing. I want to do it again, but all head first this time. Head first was definitely the way to go. So much fun.

Following the Laundry Shoot, we explored deeper into the caves while Russell taught us about stalactites, stalagmites, columns, deposits, etc. It was all truly fascinating, especially for someone who used to read geology books as a kid.

Before leaving the cave, Russell presented us with the ‘challenge’ cave. After Sanjay and Roshan had checked it out, I thought screw it. I crawled my way to the entrance and peaked in. It represented 7 metres of crawling on my stomach with very little room to move. My brain raced – Am I really going to do this? Yes. No. Yes. No. Sweet Jesus, am I insane? 

We're in a cave. It ain't nothing.

About a microsecond later, with the support of those behind me, I dove in. To get through this particular cave I had to crawl on my elbows and drag myself along in that way. I pushed as best I could with my feet but they weren’t really providing much help. In the middle of the crawl, the floor dipped a bit, requiring a bit of a back bend. Interesting, but not impossible. Near the end of the crawl things tightened up and twisted. The only way for me to get through was to put both arms out in front of me and wiggle-pull myself through. It was AWESOME! Once I made my way through, the cave opened up into a small chamber that continued to descend quite a way. I didn’t go down there as Russell hadn’t mentioned that we should and I figured I shouldn’t risk it.

Chloe. Chillaxing on the cave wall. I'm in a cave; it ain't nothing.

Shortly after I made my way in, Chloe popped through in typical Chloe fashion – all smiles. And then, despite being out of his comfort zone, Chloe and I helped pull Rick through. We were pretty much all smiles; laughing and amazed at what we had just done, and thoroughly enjoying the tiny chamber that we found ourselves in. I really can’t describe how amazing it felt.

Of course, to get out we had to go back from whence we came. Chloe led the way, with Rick and I following behind. I got a bit too close at one point and ended up with a Rick-boot to the face. Thankfully I had a helmet on so it wasn’t too bad.

After that, my level of feeling awesome was through the roof. Sadly, the tour was all but over. We investigated several amazing geologic structures, stopped for snacks, and then made our way out. It was great to see the sunshine, but I could have spent a few more hours in the caves. Thankfully, I know I’m going to do this again.

A huge thanks to Rick for organizing this. A most awesome adventure, and something I won’t ever forget.



An adventure isn't really an adventure unless it includes The Inspiration or Dr. Beth. In this case, my adventure is doubly so an adventure as it includes both The Inspiration and Dr. Beth.

And just like that, my adventuring continues.

This time, dear readers, I have booked myself a trip to the west coast city of Victoria, British Columbia. Why Victoria? Well, as I had mentioned in a previous post, I have been invited to the GeoMED conference to give a talk about some of my nerdly research. I’m pretty stoked about it because I’ve never been to Victoria, and because there will be a large number of rock star statisticians in attendance.

Given that I will want to make the best impression that I can, I’m flying out a day early to deal with any potential jet lag. The bonus to this is that Dr. Beth is going to try to join me for the day – and since my flight takes me through Vancouver, she’s going to join me on the plane in Vancouver – which means I can check off item #144 from my Not-So-Bucket-List list. Which also means the two of us will be wandering Victoria for an entire day, taking in all that it has to offer. And I assume that it will offer beautiful scenery, great food, and tasty beverages.

Since the conference runs for only 3 days, and I figured that the cost of flying out there wasn’t worth only a 4 day visit, I’ve decided to use the trip to stop in Calgary to visit Mr. Rick. This makes up for the Calgary-trip-that-wasn’t that was supposed to have occurred in September if my silly hernia hadn’t changed those plans.

Weather permitting we’ll be able to get in some hikes, and possibly some mountain climbing (although winter is setting in to the mountains already, so that’s probably a long shot). We are also going to go spelunking. W00t!

Say what? Spelunking.

For those unfamiliar with the term, it means we are going to go explore some caves. Rick just so happened to stumble on a spelunking adventure and it really seemed like something that we had to do. The following is an excerpt from the website that describes the adventure:

Photo from http://www.canmorecavetours.com

“Along the trail, your guide will explain the geology of the area; how caves are formed; show you fossils to examine up close; look for bighorn sheep; maybe spot a bear or a cougar. Inside the cave, you’ll get to climb, crawl, slither and get muddy. Soon after entering the cave you’ll rappel 18 m on a rope (with safety line backup) then on to the Five Way Chamber, Laundry Chute, Grand Gallery and finally to the Grotto, a chamber full of stalactites and stalagmites with a crystal clear pool at the bottom of the cave. Return is via the Box.” (visit www.canmorecavetours.com for more details)

Not only will we see fossils (which makes me happy in that zone of my brain that is still a kid and giddy every time I learn about dinosaurs), but we might also run into a bear or cougar. That is amazing. I’m also super excited about the 18m rappel into the cave, and the thought that we are going to have to crawl, slither, and get muddy.

Clearly this trip has the makings of an awesome adventure; fun times with Beth in a new city; presenting an invited talk to a bunch of rock star statisticians; fun times with Rick in Calgary; and spelunking. Spelunking I says!