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Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

Yesterday was living proof (thankfully), that caving is more about the brain than the body. Branko, Ricci, Jeff and I explored an Ontario cave that has long attracted a certain kind of interested adventurer, but has kept something of its true extent hidden to all but the most dedicated explorer.

Branko – a large man (well over 6 foot with a sturdy frame) squeezed through a tortourous gap that he called ‘the jaw’ to access thus-far remote and difficult terrain.

See video of Branko going beyond the Jaws of Death getting stuck underground, here.

In returning back from his incredible exploration Branko become momentarily stuck underground in a situation that an ordinary person would have found appalling. Again – mind over body, where most would have been contemplating a gloomy future of hypothermia and eventual death beneath a cold, grey bed of rock, Branko found it within himself to think logically and calmly, resting and practising relaxing techniques to ensure that panic did not swell his muscles. As Branko said, “This is between me and the rock”. And in the end Branko seems to have negotiated his way beyond the impasse and returned to the surface unscathed.

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The above picture is of the inside of Travertine Cave, which is situated at location near Toronto, Canada. We visited one winter day quite recently. While at University I often remember sitting there wondering what I could find to do aside from studying (of which I did precious little) (Toronto University, or possibly University of Guelph, or McMaster University – Hamilton, are close to here).

In the accompanying video – What to do on a winter day in Toronto Canada – Ice Caving Adventure (Toronto University) I detail my attempts to explore the cave and the unfortunate accident that I had which now leaves me aching and bruised.

Of particular interest was the observation that deeper into the cave – well past the flowing water at the entrance, was the realization that water was also flowing outward from within. I had always thought that Travertine Cave was simply a shelter that had formed as Tufa seeped over the edge of a low cliff. Water flowing from within might suggest the possibility of a solution cave and tunnels that are more extensive than I had imagined.

The ice formations in Travertine Cave were also very unusual. A strong breeze blows through the cave and the resulting icicles are flat and bladed with square protuberances at the bottom of each hanging pendant. I am left wondering what freak of climate or geography would so consistently create that unusual shape amongst not one, but all of the icicles hanging in a certain area of the entry grotto.

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Puzzled? Not so for the experienced Ontario cave searcher

I whimped out!

I am at this time still barely able to walk. My excuse …

I am out of shape
Jeff is in shape
He walked too fast, I walked to slow
My backpack was too heavy
It was too hot, I missed my dog

Just plain failure of morale, in part based on the everfluctuating readings of a GPS in which I had little faith.

Anyway, those are some of my excuses, but on the bright side we finished the day with some hope and a plan for next time (About a month from now)

We had learned of a cave beneath the power lines and at the edge of a lake and so on this beautiful sunny day we headed up north to investigate. From pictures that another caver had shown me, there is a hole that drops through the rock down into a stream channel that runs through a rubble strewn – sometimes wet passage eventually ending up at the shores of the lake. (Ontario cavers may have seen Cornelie’s pictures. From what I understand the Niebelungen cavers made a visit here about 2 years ago)

We initially arrived where the power lines crossed the road and from the air photos, I had suspected there was only a small stream to cross and then 2 kilometers to the cave – not so, the beavers had set up obstacles since the air photo was taken and we had to approach from another route where the car was parked several kilometers away. We followed up rutted road that became a dirt track that eventually intercepted the power lines. Power lines are hell to follow; you wont get lost but its not easy walking. Jeff and I slogged along over rocky hillocks and through marsh. Again the beavers made the walking circuitous and exhausting. At times we teetered along the rim of muddy beaver ponds – beautiful in amongst the lillies and dragon flies if it were not for the beating sun, progressing headache and screaming legs.

By midafternoon I was utterly exhaused and I backed out before reaching the suspected cave location – not one of my more spectacular outings. It just seemed that the power lines marched on for ever (and they do) and the hills were getting higher and higher and my legs were getting less and less co-operative (and they were -stubborn like mules)

End result, a five hour drive back to Guelph, legs that I am still barely able to get functioning, and a plan to return with a rubber raft before winter and cut across the newly formed lake to take a great distance off the hike.

There are supposedly several other caves in this area and we are resolved to pay a visit to a couple of likely sites before the snow arrives.

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Lake of the Dahlias somewhere beyond

P1010079, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here it is – over the hump. I pressed through this low slot and on to the passage beyond – an elliptical tunnel that wound off into gloom. Its hard to imagine but somewhere further on the helictites become so dense and interwoven that it is impossible to go onwards without damaging them. I did not get much further than this, but I was shown a map that indicated the most fantastic formations were isolated beneath a military zone. After my little private jaunt I saw a 3D movie that the curators were making of what was deep within – unbelievable!

One General Frederico F. Gavada wrote in 1870 in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine of his experience in the Cuevas de Bellamar saying that he eventually reached an underground lake, 18 feet deep and 180 feet long. He called it the “Lake of Dahlias” for the crystals that looked like petaled flowers.

As the general wrote …

“These dahlias are formed by triangular, concave crystals, starting from a common centre, in layers one above the other, precisely as the petals of dahlias are arranged. They vary from three to five inches in diameter. Their greatest beauty consists in the exquisite manner in which they are tinted with veins of violet and blue and delicate yellow and pale crimson. These colors are probably due to the presence of mineral salts which filter down with the water from the overlying strata.

Here, then, we have an enchanted lake in which the most fastidious of naiads would not refuse to dwell. A lake with its surrounding landscape of fantastic, sparry forms and its beds of wondrous flowers, and with its own sky bending above it full of sparkling constellations – a lake on which the sun has never shone, and whose smooth and silver surface the light wings of the breeze have never rippled, nor the rage of the tempest ever maddened into foam”.

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