Posts Tagged ‘extreme sports’

On the surface it was sweltering and buggy, but in the dolostone rock beneath the water was icy cold and I was plagued by a constant drip, drip, dripping that frequently found my eye.

Jeff, Greg and I had returned to the cave that we had recently found to do some digging and hopefully expose a tunnel that we thought must exist somewhere beneath the choke of branches and leaves.

We were absolutely stunned by what we found in about two hours of digging – mind you my thighs and back are paying for it now. In front of us the tunnel wall fell away and beneath we could see a passage.

See video on Prometheus; cave of the alien – here

Although the tunnel is tight we theorize that this might be a feeder tunnel as the scallop orientation suggests that possibility and also the size of the in-flowing stream also leads us to suspect that we are yet to make the most significant discovery.

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Extreme Outdoor sports in canada, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Though many would consider caving to be an extreme outdoor sport, I believe that there are few experiences that have the soul baring qualities of first time exploration of virgin tunnels. Though there are plenty of opportunities for exploring such passasges in western Canada – in the gargantuan shafts and passages of the Rockies, Ontario has remained somewhat unrecognized for its wild caving potential.

As it has recently become apparent, there are plenty of opportunities for cave exploration near Toronto. Parts of Ontario are honeycombed beneath by cave passages that have never been seen before.

Check out this video from our exploration of some passages that we are in the process of opening somewhere near Toronto – see video on Extreme Outdoor sports near Toronto here.

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The Marmora area in the winter (a few hours north east of Toronto) certainly gives the impression of pristine Canadian wilderness, it feels wild and remote and it certainly is most beautiful. JC and I made the 3.5 hour drive from Guelph / Hamilton this past weekend with the intention of busting open some cave passage in the vicinity. There is this escarpment that is buried under forest and beneath which we know cave passages must exist. It is not a question of there being caves, it is only a question of how to reach them.

Along our route we passed over the Crowe River and beneath the water you can see the local geology, a karst landscape of weathered limestone, joints and fissures and eroded bedding planes down which the water flows.

As for breaking into the tunnels that we had hoped to reach we were sadly unsuccessful. Everything was frozen together, the slabs of rock were way bigger than I’d remembered and crowbar, shovel and human effort were grossly ineffective. On the bright side we have scouted what appears to be a simpler underground route, a tunnel that is partially clogged by boulders, but which could be clearable with about a day of effort. I believe we could wiggle along a bedding plane and soon reach the spot that up until this weekend seemed only accessible beneath about 100 tons of rubble.

In addition to the escarpment connection tunnel, JC and I also pushed a previously known connection that we had called Argument Hole and discovered that it continued on – possibly into the upper tunnels of the Marmora Maze Caves. We had been avoiding the traditional entrance that Josh and I had uncovered some years ago as it looks unstable and a visit is hardly worth being buried alive.

Learn more about the Marmora Maze Caves and their discovery in my book ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst’ here.

So for a winter exploration near Toronto, I’d say we had a pretty successful day, but now a day later I feel absolutely shattered and I believe JC can hardly feel to much better – he’d wrenched his shoulder when the ice gave way along the escarpment edge and he fell into a crevice. I’ve felt like I’ve had lead weights attached to my limbs all day and no matter how high I crank the heat up, I still feel like I’m sitting in a snow drift, and the toes, they haven’t recovered from the hours long submersion in the ice melt that had trickled into my boots while I was crawling down iced-in cave passage – see a picture of some tunnel in the area – here and here.

Check out this video that I’d taken – showing something of the Marmora area, and also this video that shows one of the places where water sinks underground beneath a shattered karst landscape – Ontario karst landscape here.

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What is an extreme sport – me returning from a solo exploration

Some might ask, “What is an extreme sport?” and in answer I would probably suggest that they are usually outdoor activities that entail some measure of risk. The greater the risk, the more extreme the sport. Some of the better known examples of extreme sports would be half pipe skiing, street luge, and bungi jumping.

The most widely acknowledged of the most extreme sports are those that are the most visually impressive, or those that have the apparently most spectacular of consequences. You might also suggest that popularity is sometimes accelerated where there is an element of competition. It is competition that is most successfully marketed on television.

It’s not hard to classify base jumping into the list of most extreme sports, firstly, a base jump gone wrong is stunning in a ghoulish kind of way; it’s often a mistake that is captured on video in a very public place – an unexpected thump, shrieks of horror from admiring fans and limbs and body parts scattered over the impact zone. It’s all part of the culture, oddball activities with lots of risk – preferably in places where everyone can see.

Extreme sports enthusiasts say they don’t care about the established culture, life is too sanitized, “They want to feel alive”. It is this feeling of risk in extreme sports, that is appealing to both participants and spectators alike. The extent to which the counter cultural element defines extreme sports is debatable. And in this age of sponsorship and marketing it would appear that an extreme sport defines a lifestyle, or visa versa. In line with that mentality, there are huge marketing campaigns that follow certain of the better publicized events, and products that follow from the lifestyle, or supposedly define the lifestyle. Many a snowboarder might feel that they were unable to perform without the appropriate Gortex gear and withoput a Ripcurl wet suit how could a surfer possibly even get upright on their surf board? Red Bull, an energy drink, is a huge sponsor of extreme sporting events and ginseng and guarana often find their way into essential extreme sporting rehydration and energy potions, and don’t forget electrolytes.

Check out Fan Scootering here, it would appear that the people who posted this on you tube are also asking the question of,  What is an extreme sport? In answer, it certainly goes against the grain, but speed bumps might more clearly move fan scootering into the realm of an extreme sport and bell bottoms would add to the danger but look pretty neat blowing out behind a scooterist. (just kidding, but I think they have to re-consider their possible inclusion X Games) – No red Bull powers these guys, possibly diet coke or lemonade (nothing wrong with that).

Though extreme sports athletes once existed in their isolated spheres of endeavor, with only small followings of like-minded enthusiasts to applaud their daring, in the mid 90’s the extreme games concept was pitched by ESPN and now, what started as a risky proposition (appropriate I know) now appears as the X Games with a television audience of over 44 million.

In the extreme sports world, “the reward is in proportion to the risk”. In 2002, there was supposedly 1 fatality for every 60 base jumpers. Wing suiting seems to receive growing exposure amongst extreme sports groupies and the horrific death of one of the sport’s greatest athletes was captured on video when he hit a bridge while trying to fly under it and now the video can be seen on youtube. Far from dissuading potential participants, spectacular demise only encourages the subculture of people who flock to the most extreme sports of all.

Caving is an extreme sport. It has its own odd subculture and stars who are known locally by other serious participants. But caving is unlikely to develop the mass following of adrenaline junkies and arm-chair sporters. Visually, caving takes place in utter darkness, an absence of light that is so absolute that the caver’s headlamp is possibly the first light that has ever been cast upon the tunnel – such remoteness and darkness is not necessarily conducive to television. It’s unlikely that you could ever film some places that the most extreme cavers have crawled into. Cavers are exposed to a variety of risks, but to live long and accident free a caver has only to manage the risk. Cave diving is an example of the management process. Some say that cave diving is the most dangerous sport in the world. Others argue that it is generally those who do not follow the accepted procedures that die. In Canada, there is no cave dive that is within the rules and limitations of basic cave dive training. Cave diving in Canada tops the list of the most extreme sports in the world, but as a marketable sporting event it still sits back in the shadow.

In my recently published book, ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst’ I write of this most extreme of activities,  a sport that might top the list of most extreme sports. Few will see a caver in the pursuit of virgin passage exploration and yet in Ontario, it is an activity that happens several times a year. Like half-pipe skiing, caving can also be a winter sport, a wetsuit and lack of bodily feeling makes caving in the winter a distinct reality.  Some of Ontario’s wild caves have been explored in temperatures that are well below freezing – in fact I’m considering a trip into extreme winter sports next weekend (not a cave with bats – there are certain ethics that must be followed). Any takers for a sponsor? Maybe Cadbury’s hot chocolate?

Anyway, if you are into caving or exploring you might find that my book ‘Caving in Ontario’ tells you something of an adventure that takes place beneath your feet where you had never thought to look for thrills. Who says that an extreme sport has to be screaming adrenaline and energy drinks? Caving is measured, paced, logical and tenacious where you might wriggle for hours through freezing mud to reach a place where no other human has ever gone. And to add to the perversity of the situation, you can do this within a short few hour’s drive of Toronto (or less). Caving is an extreme sport without the public spectacle and cheers of admiring fans.

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The author of “Caving in Ontario”.

Pay no attention to that picture, they took my Scotch away and I got a little grumpy.

I thought that it might be advantageous to the prospective book buyer to understand a little about my motivations in writing the book “Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst” and so you can click on the link and it will take you to a discussion in my study.

See the interview here – Interview with author of Caving in Ontario. as you will hear I speak a little about some of my previous books and why I choose to write this one.

Check out a 12 page preview of “Caving in Ontario” here. Read more about a book on caves in Ontario here on the Edgehill Press site.

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Caving in Ontario – Exploration of Buried Karst – JC following up a cave tunnel

“The newly published book, “Caving in Ontario; Exploration of Buried Karst”, is now available for purchase from Lulu at this link – “Caving in Ontario” – buy the book. On the Lulu web page you will be able to preview several pages and in paying on their site you can choose shipping options that range from single day to 1 week delivery time.

“Caving in Ontario” has been a joy to write, it records the underground caving explorations that I and those that I know have taken over the last 2 decades in Ontario. There have been some extremely hazardous, world class adventures beneath the rock of this province and I felt the need to document those as well as saying something of the culture of those who are involved in extreme sports such as this.

If you are in any way interested in what lies beneath your feet, the rock and tunnels of Ontario – this book is for you. I am personally attracted by the beauty of the underground and the mystery of what lies beyond. In “Caving in Ontario” I write of many of the known caves and some that are known only to me and my closest caving friends.  I summarize two decades of exploration and tell prospective cavers how to find their own caves. Finding caves involves understanding local geology and the clues of surface geographical features.

Buy the book “Caving in Ontario”. I look forward to hearing of your own discoveries, there’s plenty more to find.

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IMG_8539, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

As my son said – looks like some kind of science fiction scene – well in a sense it feels that way as well. today I am on the hunt for a new wetsuit to accommodate the needed exploration. I guess I’ve been bitten by the caving bug again. Here’s my plan – video this first time exploration, I mean there’s something to be said for exploration in southern Ontario where you’d expect that everyone’s been before -but not here. the geography of southern Ontario remains unexplored in certain special places.

This photo was taken with some difficulty with my little hand-held canon (no flash). Next trip I’ll have video.

It is so odd that there is this karst geography in southern Ontario and people living close by and nobody knowing a thing about it – nobody knows about the underground tunnels beneath their farm or house, or nobody cares – WOW, get off your sofa and have a look!

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IMG_8547, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It should come as no surprise that an Ontario cave is cold and wet and smelly – so much so in fact that we have named a nearby sink “the stink sink”. Anyway, here is me crawling from the entrance of the cave, the snow is yet to fully melt on the nearby slopes, but when you find an undiscovered cave (undiscovered to cavers that is) you have no choice but to explore it.

We only went in a short distance today as we need wetsuits, I believe we must have seen about 100 feet of tunnel. It gets more spacious once you pass the entrance and the tunnel meanders in a limestone bedding plane. By the gently curved roof, it would not be unreasonable to suspect that the passage had initially developed beneath the water table, and by the multitude of other nearby karst features you absolutely know that numerous other sinks will be linking up as you get deeper in. Looking over the hill above the cave we can only speculate the route of the underground passage, a nearby sink leads us to suspect the first part of the route, but after that who knows? Unlike the relatively predictable route of a joint oriented tunnel like my recent trip to the Casselman Cave, the bedding plane orientation (without joints thus far noticed) is a crap shoot.

If this passage does not dip beneath the water table soon it will be a provincially significant find – it can only get larger.

Not tio diverge, but check out my new book “Tamarindo; Crooked times in Costa Rica“. If you have read my first book Rockwatching, you will certainly want my second.

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If you want to cave in Canada – you gotta like the cold!

Caving in the winter

Speaking of caving possibilities – there is plenty of virgin passage beneath this low escarpment – tunnels that I have entered but never really pursued. Come to think of it, this might be our easy access to the bigger suspected tunnels beneath the larger escarpment nearby.

There are always interesting ice formations in this area – in this case stalacmites of ice that have grown up from the floor.

This particular opening was the first one that we ever found in the area. Marcel, his ggirlfriend at the time and I stumbled across this hole – we never really followed in to far, but I believe that somewhere along those passages they must connect up with the Marmora Maze Caves (downstream).

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Ontario in the Winter – Canadian caving trips


Got to watch for polar bears and sasquatch – I heard a caver just got eaten.

Here I am in one of my favorite Ontario caving spots looking for more tunnels. Winter is often a good time to look for caves as you can see the breathing holes and with few leaves and brambles – holes can be more visible.

This particular spot is at the edge of a resurging valley somewhere near the Crowe River. I am climbing up a slippery embankment that is one of several ridges that soon progress to an escarpment that I am absolutely sure is underlain by caves. In this area there are 3 distinctive joint directions and I can see a length of straight-line collapse beneath the soil in one spot on the nearby escarpment. There are undoubtably tunnels under there – its just gonna take some digging.

Sometimes its esy to get depressed about Ontario’s caving possibilities, but the caves are there, they just need digging and as cavers we just need to get together and do some serious work. We lack unity thats our problem!

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