In attendance: Nick Hindley, Natalie Maslowski, Temma Shandon, Anna Cho, Donald Lao, Johan Denker Ebskamp, Michaela Marxt, Austin Bauer, Victor Mate (Briefly)
Friday FUN (Fucked Up Night):
(Flashback to Oct. 25th)
The Friday, a week prior to the weekend we actually went on our trip, we experienced some of the worst storm winds seen in Vancouver, which had been cancelling trips all day (was this a sign for us not to do this trip?). But in classic overly optimistic VOC fashion, we decide as a group to fuck it and try for a ferry anyways. Well, it turns out ferries get cancelled in stormy 90 km/hr winds. We did not get on the ferry that night. Beers at the local pub and grill it was. Trip was rescheduled to the following weekend, we are stubborn.
(Take 2 for Cousin of Cave Nov. 1st)
The time is 6pm on Friday, and Austin’s car is flawlessly on their way to the ferry. Meanwhile, Temma, Donald and I are still waiting around to get picked up by Victor (who only has Anna in his car) and getting a little anxious. Where is he and what’s taking so long? We found out later that Victors car got into an accident. Our only response from this entire situation was a text from Anna at 7:15pm: “just got into a minor accident” from Anna. Great start to the trip! Temma and I make a snap decision: we are gonna get to this ferry on time. So we grab her car and get to Donald’s house grab him and Anna (who left Victors car to meet us). We speed like we are in grand theft auto, swerving through downtown like nobody’s business. We hear that Victor is ok, and Anna is ok, we are one man down, but decide to go through with the trip, but drink a beer in Victors honor.
We make it smoothly for the 8:00 pm ferry and arrive in Nanaimo safe and sound. With 40 min to get to Walmart and the liquor store, from the ferry. We manage to buy our last minute items and finally start the drive to Campbell River, at 11:30pm. We get to Memekay at an ‘alpine start’ of 3:00am. When’s the best time to go caving you say? After driving all day from Vancouver to the island? According to Nick this is the best time. So, after meeting up on the logging road with the other cars in our group, we head off into the woods.
After meandering a little lost and confused and sleepy, we find our first cave! Upper Scallop caves. We take a little peak inside. Utter fascination and awe. So this is what a cave looks like?? We are all excited about caving now, but we agree we could all do with some sleep. We make camp and warm ourselves on Temma’s car hood before heading off for a 4:30am “nap”.
(Note to reader: time is arbitrary this weekend.)
Saturday CAAVING (Caving Amelia Apparently is Very Incredibly Not a Good Idea):
We scrounge around for breakfast/lunch and make a plan to explore some dry caves in the area.
Lower scallop caves it is! We start the caving day by learning to do the flying angel for first time to lower ourselves in. What is caving you ask? According to our experience this weekend, caving really just means walking around the woods and finding holes in the ground. If you can fit inside, you go caving. Plain and simple. We still can’t find fishy hole cave, which was in our plans, so we decide to make back for a late lunch. Finding caves can be hard.
Thoughts on the cave called Amelia post-lunch: WHOOT fun!
Thoughts on Amelia after experiencing Amelia: that was some fucked up type of fun.
Amelia as a cave: Fun flying angels, slippery down climbing in streams, some sketchy climbing to avoid swimming through cold as death streams, dark deep holes, fucked up waterfalls, shivering in emergency blankets and fucked up ascents in places you don’t want to ascend a rope.
All is well for our enthusiastic group of newbie cavers through Amelia so far (fun la di da caving so far), until we reach a near 30 ish meter waterfall. Should we go down this deathly cold waterfall and risk having a shit time ascending this as a group who has never practiced ascending in real caves? YES, agrees everyone except for me and Michaela. Both of us are near freezing and have sensibly decided to stay behind to stay warm, while the rest explores the last 100m of the cave.
Michaela and I take a seat and watch the overly optimistic group go down the freezing as fuck waterfall (no exaggeration here) and disappear into the darkness. 30 min go by, and we see the first signs of life from our keeners.
(This info was provided by the keener group who went down the waterfall.)
They watch Anna try ascending a rope for the first time, and she can hardly make it up 2m in the bitter cold. She has spent a while trying to make further progress, and the group quickly realizes something. She won’t make it up. Nick goes into cave guide mode, now giving out clear instructions. Then Donald decides to give the rope ascent a try.
Turns out you can’t breathe in waterfalls. Donald is shook as he climbs over the edge near the anchor and crawls over to Michaela and I. His only words so far: that was absolutely fucked. We get more info into the situation at the bottom. The time spent in the cave so far: 2.5 hours.
(Note to reader: communicating is hard when you have a one-way communication system, we get more info to the situation as cavers climb up the rope to the top of the waterfall, but no way for us up top to communicate any important info to the cavers down below)
Thoughts at the top of the waterfall: Should we make a haul system? We all gave our gear the people at the bottom. How are we to bring everyone up? What is going on? Can we all make it out?
Austin gives it a go, nearly loses his headlamp in the waterfall. You can’t see shit anyways in a waterfall, so it doesn’t matter much. With cheers of encouragement he makes it up. Austin’s life reflection starts: that was a bad idea. Being outdoorsy doesn’t mean you can do just anything. Up at the top we decide to move the anchor out of the way of the waterfall so climbers don’t have to ascend directly through it. However, Nick and cavers have no idea we changed the position of the anchor, and are therefore unable to change their climbing beta which means they are still trying to climb up the middle of the waterfall. But we learn quickly, that no one except us know it, and so we watch Temma with some anxiousness.
Temma ascends halfway, and we try to shout and tell her from up top to try another strategy because of the moved anchor, but when you are being shouted at from two different directions and everyone is telling you something else, confusion ensues. Temma can’t make it up and is stuck in the middle of the waterfall. Cave guide Nick comes up to bring her out of the middle of the waterfall and ends up cutting a sling so she can descend back to the bottom. Nick then decides to come up the rope himself.
With few exchanges of words, we sit and watch Nick set up a one to one haul system (surprisingly efficient). We learn that everyone below is ok, but very cold. Nick hauls up Anna, then Temma and lastly Johan. We are all up and safe. It has now been 4 hours. What a night.
We climb out of the cave. Everyone is freezing. We change at camp and make a fire. We reflect with beers and get tipsy enough to want to go exploring again. Marble cave, only a tipsy 20m distance away proves to be our source of late-night entertainment. We get to bed at an early 2:00am.
Sunday ICE (Icing in a Cave is Easy):
Icey wetsuits are not very fun. We find Fishy hole cave finally, Nick raps in to check it out, only to then ascend back up and call it off – due to the cave’s apparent complexity and raging death river roaring below. But, we found some fun tight squeeze by the river, with many spiders. Michaela got stuck, a tiny spout of water was found, and samples by our biologist, Anna, were collected. We explored some more caves by the river and then Upper scallop (filled with fun tight squeezes and a discovery of what looked like the entrance to the underworld). In classic hilarious Temma and Austin fashion, we ice Nick in our last cave. What does it take to ice Nick you say? Some dark corners in a cave, a stroke of his caving ego, and some sneaky action. There you have it.
We ended the weekend with a quick romp through marble cave and then packed up. We catch the ferry, play some cards pick up hitch hikers and drive home. All for an early arrival of 11:30pm.
The weekend was SWELL. Stoke was maintained at an ultimate high, save for the Amelia experience, by our amazing cave guide: Nick. Father of Faff. Thanks for taking a bunch of caving keeners on a trip that we will always remember as our first!
Note to future cavers: bring MORE hand ascenders, pack a warmer wetsuit and chips are always a good idea.
WOW- so ascending out of a crevasse should be no issue after this practice
Great work at managing this situation all!