Canyon Creek Ice Caves

May 16, 2012 at 8:09 am

Attempt date: May 13th, 2012
Start time: 6:45am
Completion time: 5 hours
Participants:  Sarah McLean, Rob Hick, Jimmy Quigley, Patrick Latter

Weather conditions at base

Temperature

Minimum Temperature: 2.6 °C
Mean Temperature: 14.4 °C
Maximum Temperature 23.4 °C

Pressure and Dew Point

Mean Sea Level Pressure: 102.29 kPa
Mean Dew Point: -1.9 °C

Wind Speed and Gusts

Mean Wind Speed: 15.56 kmh
Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 14.00 kmh
Maximum Wind Gust: 37.04 kmh

Directions

Drive towards Bragg Creek on highway 22 and continue onto highway 66 when you reach that junction. The turnoff for Canyon Creek is on the right hand side. There will be two signs indicating where to turn off, one for ‘Ing’s Mine’ and another for Canyon Creek. Once you’ve turned off, follow the gravel road about 300m until you reach a gate. You’ll see a parking lot on the right; park there. At one point in time this gate was not there and you were able to drive all the way to trail head, but due to some accidents and a fatality, they have closed the road to all traffic not related to the sour gas well.

Gear

  • Food
  • Water
  • Warm fleece
  • Hiking boots
  • Warm socks (or 2 layers of socks)
  • Toque
  • Thermal underwear
  • Bikes (Optional)

Ascent 

The trail head is roughly 7km from the gate, so while bikes aren’t required, they do make for a much shorter day.

While the road appeared to be level, it was actually a slight incline nearly the entire way up to the trail head. We all attributed the added difficulty to the ride from being out of shape. We quickly realized on the way back though that this was not the case. With the ride back being downhill, it required little to no effort and was a nice surprise. About 6 km down the road, it splits off to the right. Continue going straight! You will see the trail head on the right hand side just before you reach what looks like a sour gas well site.

Jimmy had yet to go to sleep from a bout of karaoke the night before. With the heat of the morning sun starting to pick up, his condition was getting worse by the second. Hey North Face, do you want to gift Jimmy some new boots?

From here we locked our bikes together and started up the trail. We could see the cave entrance high up on the rock face as we made the short hike up the side of mountain. It was only about 30 minutes before reached the enormous mouth to the cave.

It was much larger looking than it looked from the road. As soon as we stepped inside, the temperature dropped dramatically. We stopped here to take a few pictures and get our head lamps for the journey inwards.

As we ventured in further, we had to keep an eye on the ground as there were large sections covered in ice. Keeping to left we were able to avoid much of the slippery sections.


With Jimmy’s tiredness really starting to kick in, the cool darkness of the cave was the perfect thing. Roughly 75m into the cave, we came upon a large icicle that had to be at least a foot and half in diameter and stretched from the floor to ceiling. With our head lamps off, it glowed faintly from the distant light of the cave entrance.


As we continued deeper, we lost sight of any light but that of our lamps. At 100m, we came across a sheet of ice stretching along our right. It was here too that this particular chamber appeared to come to an end. We explored the edges, to find that there was what looked a 2nd chamber on the left through a thin fissure of rock that was just wide enough to shimmy through if took off our bags. We took turns awkwardly sliding on our stomachs with the roof of the cave just inches above us.


The new chamber turned out to be significantly smaller than the last, with barely enough room to hold the four of us.

According to the writing on the wall, ‘Dog and Ralph’ had been there first.

Disappointed with the dead end,  we slid our way back through the rocks towards the first chamber. Once we got our bags back on, we headed back to the entrance. Along the way, Jimmy thought he may have found another passage in the floor but it turned out to be just a very small hole.

It was 9:30am now and we could see the heat waves outside the cool entrance to the cave. We stopped here to climb up a vertical crack in the wall that stretched from the floor, to nearly 75 feet. Might be hard to spot, but there are three people in the next photo and then another person in the 2nd photo.

The last few photos here are actually from the previous day mountain biking but I thought I would include them anyway.