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Spelunking - Gargantua and Cleft caves

**Up to 12 people will be allowed to come on this but we will require 2 additional truck based 4x4 vehicles for more people to come**

This caving expedition takes us into the spectacular Crowsnest Pass region of southern Alberta. After 4-wheeling up a 7km seismic line, we hike up 2km (400m elevation gain) then camp in the alpine meadows. From camp, we hike to 2 caves high up in the ridges above. The first cave offers a breathtaking view from the Eagle's Nest. In the second cave we rappel through large chambers and narrow passages before emerging behind a waterfall at the base of Mount Ptolemy.

Cleft Cave is a canyon-like cave, which we follow through a mountain ridge to the Eagle's Nest. From this precipitous perch you get a breathtaking view into the next valley. We return through the cave via another route. The walls of the cave are coated in a delicate frost, making this trip very photogenic. No vertical skills are required.

Gargantua Cave is the focus of the alpine caving experience. We access the cave high on the flanks of Mount Ptolemy, sometimes traversing a snow slope to get there. once inside, the cave opens into enormous caverns; Boggle Alley is so big you could park a jumbo jet in it! From here the tour makes 5 rappels down through the cave to another entrance 300m below. On the way, you will follow a maze of passageways. The Super Dipway is an impressive tube 5m in diameter that worms its way through the mountain. It contains curious fudge-coloured stalagmites. Emerging from under a waterfall at the lower entrance, you then traverse a karst plateau, looking like the surface of the moon on your way back to camp.

All members must have a high level of fitness and backpacking experience.  Talk to me if you want to come and are lacking any of these skills.


Rating: Difficult

Distance: NA

Elevation gain: 900m

Time: NA


Additional info:


The Urban Dictionary had a breakthrough moment with spelunking:



Day 1: Calgary to Crownest & Cleft Cave

  • Meet at 8 am and drive from Calgary to Crowsnest (2-1/2 hours)
  • 7 km four-wheel drive along an old seismic road
  • 2-hour hike up to the alpine meadows camp site.
  • After setting up camp, we ascend 400m to Cleft Cave, which we explore in the afternoon.
  • Return to camp for meal and campfire discussion


Day 2: Gargantua Cave

  • We hike almost 2 km, ascending 500m up over the Mount Ptolemy Col to Gargantua Cave.
  • We then descend through the cave via 5 rappels to a lower entrance and punch through a waterfall (you will get wet here)
  • Hike back to camp


Day 3: Back to Calgary

  • Pack up camp and gear in the morning
  • Hike down to 4 wheel drive vehicle and head out to parking area.



Gear for backpacking:

Backpacking checklist can be found here for everything you are required to bring:


Gear required for caving includes:

  • Coveralls
  • Kneepads
  • Gloves
  • Helemet
  • Headlamp
  • Harness
  • Safety lanyards and ropes

Gear can be rented at either Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) or UofC Outdoor Center.  Once we know who is all going, we will get together to see who has what gear so we can share things.


We will meet at the in Calgary meeting point and carpool from there. Please be on time as we will only wait a short while past past the departure time before we leave.

South of Black Diamond on Hwy 22, then west on Hwy 3. Approximately 10km west of Coleman, to the Visitor Information Centre.

You must sign a trip waiver and contact information form to attend this event. The event organizer will have these for you.

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