As I look outside into a mid-January snowstorm and contemplate my weekend, I am at least encouraged by the possibility of a caving trip tomorrow. I live in central Ontario and one of the fun things to do in Toronto is caving – an activity that many might think impossible given the supposedly un-cave-like terrain around here, but as far as cool things to do in Toronto, caving certainly tops the list – that and maybe that skywalk around the top of the CN tower – it’s something that i’d like to do in time. Winter caving is an activity that takes an already extreme possibility and multiplies it two-fold.
Firstly, a winter caver must be a knowledgeable caver, and for your immersion in near freezing water, close confines and the remote location of where you generally end up going, there is the very real possibility of hypothermia, and if you are a long way in, or lost, hypothermia can be a killer. There is also the consideration of wildlife. Bat hibernaculums, or any cave with bats is out of bounds for winter cavers, so in selecting your exploration site, you already must have a knowledge of where the bats are. If you waken a bat mid-winter there is the chance that it will die.
So, no pun intended, and without intent to encourage casual exploration of caves around Toronto mid-winter, I say that for me, one of the cool things to do in Toronto during winter is caving. I know of several places where caves have been opened by myself or one of my caving associates – dug from beneath the earth, exposed from beneath a layer of rock, where there are virgin cave tunnels that await our winter exploration. At this time my caving associates and I contemplating a caving trip next weekend. We will be wearing wet suits and have plans for immediate changing back on the surface. The thing that I find most difficult about cave exploration in the winter is the return to the surface. Up top there is invariably a bitter wind and when the wind meets your soaking wetsuit your only thought is to shed it. Taking your wetsuit off in the snow begins simply enough on top of some kind of tarp, but then when the thing gets caught around your ankles you are soon rolling in the snow and kicking and struggling to free yourself from this slimy freezing thing that feels like a sealskin turned inside out and dipped in the Arctic Ocean.
Anyway, back to my point about top things to do in Toronto, or in particular, top things to do in Toronto in the winter, I would say, slithering down tunnels that have never been seen before in icy water, darkness and conditions that most Torontonians would sooner leave to others – namely me, is just about as good as it gets. The picture above was taken deep within the bowels of Marble Cave, a beautiful system north of Toronto that burrows through solid bone-white marble. You can read something of the Marble Cave exploration in my new book, ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst’, by clicking on this link. Incidentally Marble Cave is not a cave that should be visited in the winter – it is cavernous enough in its upper reaches to possibly harbor bats.
So, I would say, one of the best things to do in Toronto Ontario on a cold winter’s day is cave exploration. The kind of cave to choose is one that is pretty well scoured by water in the spring time – this way you know there are no bats there. It should be somewhat more accessible in mid-winter when groundwater is largely tied up in the snow that has accumulated on the ground above. Keep in mind, what might seem to be one of the better things to do in Toronto in the winter could soon turn into one of the worst things to do if you don’t know what you’re doing. Caving in itself ‘serious caving’ that is, quickly cuts your life short if you are doing stupid things. So if you are not already an experienced caver I don’t suggest you try this.
Be safe! Check out my book ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring buried Karst’ here.