It had been a long time since I wanted to see Rat's Nest Cave near Canmore until it finally happened today morning. I was at there location just before you enter the town at about 09:15 AM and I was the first of small group of 7, including the guide. There was a hike of about half an hour to the entrance to the cave which was not bad although it was a bit cold, almost -13̊ C and not windy. They have a little shelter up there so you can put the helmet and other safety gears on. Inside the cave was pleasant in terms of temperature but breathing was bit hard. It's not so bad that you have difficulty but there's lots of dust in the air and I wonder why. Inside the cave mostly wet and that's what makes it strange to understand the suspended particles in the air.
You have to crawl or walk with your head down for most of the part and use harness and clip yourself to the ropes which is fairly easy. The fun part starts when you have to rappel yourself down. That was my first experience and the guide set the ropes and clips for me and told me what to do and I really enjoyed down except for the part that I hit my left leg and knee to a rock! Then after a few minutes of walks and downs, crawls and jumps we reached a point that there was a little hole and the guy said that we could go in and crawl to the other side and come back. I looked and it seemed impossible for me to get in and I definitely didn't want to get stuck! So I didn't go to the hole and then we went further down and that was another damn hole, this one like a shaft that I really don't know how the people got in! It goes down vertically and then takes an L shape angle and become horizontal. I didn't take the chance with this one either and unlike the last one the guide didn't stay with me. He joined them and I was all alone. Becoming alone in a cave is probably the scariest thing that someone could experience. Imagine you're there and your battery is out. Unless someone knows where you are, you just go crazy and die! I can't even picture it in my how someone could save himself or herself even with a light because there are different ways, holes and chambers.
Nevertheless I tried to keep myself busy with the photography until the guide comes and gets me as he had promised. I heard a noise after a few minutes and I realized that was another group but the fella showed up and got. I joined everyone and we reached where there were small ponds and you could hear water streaming down. It was very nice and I was going to get a clip but the crazy guys were too load and at the end I just took a few shots and climbed up. The last challenge was another hole that you would have to crawl in all the way, probably only a few meters and come back the same way. I went only as far as a meter and I saw a rock sticking up from the top and went back!
The way back to the top of the cave and entrance is different. You come out a spot which is called box and we were shown when we stepped in. We had to use the harnesses to get up. A fall-safe device. I guess it was almost 15:10 or so that we were at the shelter and around 15:35 when we reached the cars.
Overall it is not a bad experience but not as significant as I originally thought. I had been to a cave only once and there was no crawling and technical challenge and that was back to 2001 and to Rood-Afshan Cave shortly before I left the old country. This differently is more challenging, exciting and appealing but there are disadvantages too. Although it's a once in a life time try, I still believe it is a bit expensive. If you're a little big guy there's no way that you could maneuver between the rock down in there. I'm not a very big guy but the guide noticed the size of my body and mentioned that I might not be able to pass some passages. The atmosphere in the cave is dusty. Someone with a bit of breathing problem could be in trouble easily. Even I felt a bit of discomfort when I inhaled deeply. The guy, the guy is very helpful, patient with the people and a professional. He was also very helpful on the phone when I booked so the staff are great. About the name of the cave I had heard that from them that there were hamsters living in the cave. I personally prefer bats but there was only one at the entrance and the guide used all his effort to get the attention of the rodent if I may call it but I only saw its little head! I would give the whole experience a 3.5 Stars and recommend it to skinny and tiny guys. Have lots of rest the day before the tour and don't worry about water and food. I was neither hungry nor thirsty and only ate after I reached home but I had a light breakfast.
(Photo: This is where it is considered almost the end of the tour but the map I saw at their office showed the tour only covers a much as 1/5 of the entire cave. The rest probably takes much longer, requires training and equipment and causes damages. That was good enough for me!)