Party: Mum, Dad and I
Photos: Mum? and I
Caves: Fang Cave + Useless Cave
Sep 27: Left Clive and Susan, Shopping, Drive to TH
Sep 28: Hiked up to the Resurgence. Explored passage. The Plunge a roof sniff. Brutal Breakthrough Plugged. Found Middle Entrance. Found Tradesman Entrance. Cached gear inside entrance. Camped at TH.
Sep 29: Carried more gear up. Collected Cache. Dropped into Middle with gear. Caved up to Upper. Moved camp to Upper (via surface). Caved down through Corkscrew and out Tradesman.
Sep 30: Sunny Sunday. Decided to explore the plateau. Hiked up past the lakes. Quick visit to Useless Cave. Then over the mountain above it.
Oct 01: Plan was to get into the Big Grin. Dad didn’t like the rope climb, so we headed out. Emerged into a snow storm. Packed up camp and headed down.
Day 0 – Sep 27:
Clive and Susan had been nice enough to look after some caving gear for me over the summer (whilst I travelled through The Yukon and Alaska). I returned now with wine and cheese… and my parents! After over a week of caving on Vancouver Island the plan was to head up onto the Fang Plateau for a week or so. Clive, former president of the Prince George University Caving Club, was a wealth of knowledge, giving us a good idea on what ropes we’d need, which pitches we could bypass and places he’d used to camp in the past. I spent several hours touching up and combining the 5 surveys of Fang I could find. In the morning Clive printed them on a poster using his dandy printer and we headed to SpeeDee to get it laminated for the trip. By the time we’d finished getting supplies it was already late afternoon. We pulled into the Pass Lake camping area… it was busy. A group of hunters had set up a pavilion complete with chimney. Raw meat was hanging, a moose’s head occupying the fireplace, and they weren’t about to share it with anyone. The guy cooking dinner came over and said we were parking in his mates spot. And we couldn’t park over there, because that’s where they parked the ATV’s. We wouldn’t want to share the camping area with such rude people anyway, so headed off to camp at the TH… Even there the hunters’ presence followed us – they’d dumped a deer’s pelt in the ditch at the TH – pretty inconsiderate (bears?). We coaxed a fire alight, had dinner and headed to bed. Anticipation was high. I’d been wanting to visit this cave for a long time, getting so close as to fly over the upper entrance the previous winter.
Day 1 – Sep 28: Everything had turned to ice. We solemnly packed. The plan was to cache some gear at the resurgence, exploring the lower part of the cave. Fingers numb, we climbed the trail for the first time. It proved to be quite distinct, so we knew we wouldn’t have an issue finding the Upper and Lower entrances. As the trail climbed through the old growth, we began to warm, turning right at a junction and crossing a couple of distinct boulder chutes, before following the cave’s creek further upwards. The creek bed had been dry so I wrongly assumed The Plunge wouldn’t be an issue for us, but as we neared the resurgence the roar of water checked those hopes. Creeping around between the creek and limestone bluff we soon laid eyes upon the comely entrance.
We headed in to dump gear and photo pfaff, keeping an eye out for places to cache our gear. Heading in, we followed the right (CL) wall into the Unmapped Crawl (part of the Tradesman Series). The passage wasn’t Jimmy-friendly (i.e. not large) and although there were speleothems, there wasn’t really anything spectacular. We dropped down into larger passage exploring where we expected to find the Brutal Breakthrough; but despite finding a solid draught (and exploring what seemed to be the Aardvark’s Back Passage) I couldn’t find the way on. Relocating the main stream we confirmed that The Plunge was almost completely sumped. With both ways- on blocked we decided to do some surface exploration, the goal being to locate the Tradesman Entrance – this would provide a convenient exit when we dropped into the lower part of the cave from the top (via the Corkscrew).
Dad elected to guard our gear from any potential packrats – hopefully it was too cold for them – whilst Mum and I trogged up the slope to where the entrance should be (based on the distance and bearing we’d taken from the survey). It took longer than expected but after locating the Middle Entrance, eventually we found what ‘must be it’. Thankfully no packrats had moved back in since Clive dug the entrance open years ago!
Heading back, we cached most of our gear in the entrance. A section of garden hose salvaged from the stream (maybe to siphon a sump in summers?) serving as a line to hang our gear above the stream. A crack perfect for a cam, to hang our software (material technicals).
Sep 29: In the morning we headed back up the mountain, this time bringing camping gear as we were planning to base ourselves at the cave for several nights. Stopping by the lower entrance we grabbed our cache and continued up to the Middle Entrance. We thought we might be able to establish a camp just inside the cave. There where a few bolts to the left and a couple down the slope for redirects/rebelays. Being quite short on carabiners I was happy I’d been practising my re-threaded butterflies and used these on several of the hangers. The drop proved shorter than expected, a scree slope leading us down into an impressive space called the Coliseum. Admiring the dimensions we looked around for a water source and a place we might be able to comfortably camp. There were plenty of water-drops falling on to an icy floor at the back of the room, but there wasn’t really anywhere to escape the cool breeze.
The plan now was to cave to the Upper entrance. Whilst there is a pitch marked on the map, Clive had assured us that there is a bypass – which is interesting since Bob and ?? had got stuck in here when they’d hitchhiked on someone’s ropes. They’d climbed up the Corkscrew and bivouacked in the Coliseum… why hadn’t they simply climbed out the rest of the way? (you can read this story and many others in Dale’s new and fantastic book!). (Maybe high water levels or two squeezy are my guesses?).
Climbing several short pitches, leaving 10m handline at one of them, I squeezed through a tight hole in the large breakdown. I dug it out a bit. A couple more climbs and it wasn’t long before the top entrance came into sight. This insurgence was a very nice spot, with water cascading just outside. Locating several good spots to camp, we quickly decided to relocate. Picking up the trail we hiked around to the Middle entrance. I dropped down and pulled the packs up to the last re-belay where I ferried them to the others.
With camp established we packed some gear to rig the corkscrew and headed back down through the cave. Water trickling slowly down we climbed and then rappelled down the corkscrew which was composed of several tiered drops (3 bolted pitches?). To save weight Mum and Dad were sharing a harness and it was a little annoying having to pass the harness back up each time – I flying angeled.
Soon we were in the Ante Room where we continued left through the Queen’s Gallery leaving the Missing Lynx and Big Grin for another day. The passage was large with a meandering stream until the Beehive was reached. Here we continued just a short way before turning off into the Tradesman series. Throwing some rocks back to the others we made our way through where I believe the infamous Royal Flush occurred.
Continuing, we located what had to be the Bodacious Chimney, the final climb to the surface… but first I had something to do… continuing a short way past the chimney-climb I crawled through until my thoughts were confirmed: the Brutal Breakthrough was almost completely choked. The stream on the other side, with the small draughting hole we’d reached yesterday, was not far away.
Reversing, I joined the others in climbing the chimney. Going one at a time due to all the loose rocks it took quite a while before we were all safe on the surface. Walking back to camp we enjoyed the colours on the horizon and were soon tucked into our sleeping bags.
Sep 30: We woke to Sunny Sunday. The weather looked amazing. It was still cool, every day the cascades were encroached more and more by ice. Soon it was unanimous, time to explore the plateau. Packing light we hiked up the valley joining some others at the lower lake.
Continuing up the valley we reached the higher lake. Aiming for a saddle between two of the ranges surrounding the valley, we spotted what looked like a cave entrance in the cliff face. Maybe it was Useless Cave? I hiked up to it exploring much more passage than expected. I later confirmed that it was in fact Useless (there is a sketch in the unpopular guidebook. It is not included on the BC survey disk).
Once we reached the saddle, amazing views could be observed in both directions. It would have been nice to stay longer, but the wind was icy, so we continued our traverse starting a ptarmigan count; their colours already fully white.
Above Useless we located some interesting grikes. Most still plugged with snow from the previous winter. I wonder if there are any connections? Maybe Useless won’t be so useless in the future?
I never made time to check, but judging by all the dolines I figured there was a good chance we were over some unexplored part of The Big Grin. Some bushbashing and we were back down in the valley, rejoining the trail that led to camp.
Oct 01: More caving was on the agenda. The plan: to get into the Big Grin. Following the now familiar route we dropped down through the Coliseum and then the Corkscrew. Mum tried flying angeling and actually quite liked it. Soon we were in the start of the Missing Lynx. A 10m climb soon blocking our advance. Despite our best efforts, Dad had made up his mind that he wouldn’t ascend the rope that was dangling down from above. A little annoyed I decided we wouldn’t split up and instead would explore the last section of the Tradesman Series, head back out and then explore Tiger Tunnel etc. We did an awkward climb across a void, clipping into a questionable traverse line – probably more difficult than ascending the other pitch. Continuing 50m or so the passage choked (@ Crawl and Unusual Passage). The traverse back was harder in terms of rope management, and one move also seemed more of a reach, but with a little cussing getting gear back and forth, we made it safely across and back down.
There was much more ice in the Bodacious Chimney than before. I joined Mum outside and couldn’t believe it – I’d emerged into heavy snowfall. Luckily, 5mins later when Dad had emerged it had lightened off a little. It might have been good that we hadn’t gone into The Big Grin after-all! There had been precipitation on the forecast, but it had come early (it also turned out that it was a day later than we thought!). Not wanting to get snowed in, we made quick plans to break camp and head down. It was getting late in the day, so there was a good chance it’d be dark by the time we reached the car.
Mum and Dad went to the upper entrance to pack, whilst I used the rope we had to rap in through the Middle, pulling the rope as I went. I cleaned the Corkscrew and grabbed the handline we’d left at the climb just before camp. Everything was pretty much packed by the time I arrived and it wasn’t long before we were hiking down in the snow.
I did a small detour to have a look at the Lower entrance. It was vastly different to how we’d seen it a few days before.
Making good time, we dropped below the snow line. Relaxing now that we knew we’d be able to drive out. Entrusting navigation to Dad we joined the main road and soon passed the hunters guarding their most recent kill. We drove 30km down a dead end road before making it back to the Highway (aka safety). We camped near the Ancient Forest and spent some time walking there the following morning before continuing south for more adventure.