Canyon Creek Ice Caves
A series of caves and pockets in the South side of Moose Mountain.

Olivier, Eugene, Carthy, Laurier, and I took a rainy day out to explore the ice caves. It was a good day to be in the ground.


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The Canyon Creek ice caves lie up a road used by Transalta for gas lines.
After far too many cases of idiots walking into the caves in flip flops and tank tops, and getting into assorted trouble, the road was closed to private vehicles.
Now, to access the ice caves, you must walk ~6km in to the bottom of the hillside, before scrambling up to the gaping entrances.
The road, while unthrilling, serves its purpose, and there are fewer yahoos in the area.
Along the road you get a view of the caves at about the 3km mark, while the views of prairie mountain to your West and South,
and Moose Mountain (in which lie the caves) to the East and North.
There is also a small sulphur spring in the creek that runs along down the hill from the road - something previously unnoticed.

First view of the caves

Closer view, showing the three caves we checked out.

An outlier of the sprawling mass that is Moose Mountain.

Prairie Mountain. The weather hasn't been too great, clearly.

Sulphur springs and Canyon Creek.

Second Spring - these sure let off a smell for a ways on either side.

These appear to be cold water springs, but we didn't go down to them to check.


Once you reach the old parking lot (now absorbed into a plant), the trail cuts off to the north and gradually traverses the scree runs until you reach the caves.

Trail sign at the turnoff - this is not particularly comforting...

Beginning of the trail, in the woods.

View back along the trail we took in.

View of the creek continuing West, right out to the Powderface Trail.


The first 'cave', checked out by Laurier and Rachel, was a small hole out of which flowed just enough water to provide some greenery.
The access to this included some nice scrambling. (Easy way - bah!)

First cave in the mountainside.

The approach to the cave - climb over a few bands, then walk up the angled slab

The path toward the cave. This whole area is just a mess of erosion.

Laurier climbing the slab to entrance. It's much steeper than it appeared from below.

Looking over the edge from in front of the cave entrance.

Water dripping down the side of cave.

View out the cave to valley below.
This cave is just barely big enough to stand and walk in.

Neat rocks along the traverse to main cave.

Eugene closing in on the big slit of the main cave.

View back along traverse to main cave.

The climb to an alternate entrance. I came down this last time,
from an opening just out of the photo to right.

Ledge protruding from alternate entrance (upper centre of photo).


The main cave is a massive vertical slit in the mountainside. As you go in, it stays very open for quite a while, as you explore the large passage to its end. This cave is no longer accessible near the depth it once was, as most of it has been plugged by ice since 1980. The main tunnel is still very cool, and the ice, in the plug, and in seasonal columns, is very cool.

Eugene in front of the cave entrance.

Closer view of the gaping entrance from high on the left side

The view as you enter.

Impressively flat ceiling, faaaaar,far above.

The edge of the cave ceiling, and rock continuing above.

The cave starts to close in a little.

A neat rock jumble up the side near the entrance. You can crawl in behind and climb up this.

The entrance appears wider once you are inside.

It doesn't require going in too far before the light entering starts to wane.

The entrance in the distance, and more rocks to haul over in the foreground.

As the cave curves away from the entrance, the few rays making their way in have a neat change.

The last speck of light visible from outside. It's all flashlights from here.

Laurier and Eugene exploring at the back of the cave.

Laurier crawls into a tight area.

Olivier heads in behind, while Rachel and Eugene follow.

Carthy sliding her way through the low point.

Laurier, Rachel, Eugene, and Carthy in the room opening behind the low slide.

Olivier checking out the tight passage extending from below the small room.


The last time we came, at the end of the summer, there was little ice, aside from the major plug.
I definitely recommend making it in winter or early spring - there's so much more ice - it's quite awesome.
We saw one large floor to ceiling column, and a fair amount of ice flowing across the floor from it.
The main ice plug is also very impressive. You can see marks from the last time people tried to drill through.

The large ice column.

Better view of the ice column and frozen river.

Peering straight up the side of the column

Close shot of the neat formation of the ice.

The ice column and the tiny speck of daylight visible in the distance.

Checking out some ice on the floor, lit only by my headlamp.
          
The massive ice plug. People have tried to drill into it, but this has not been passed since 1980.

wide shot of the ice extending above and left of the main plug.


The second cave, while not icy, is possibly even more interesting than the main.
This cave is a very narrow slit in the mountain, and maintains that shape the whole way.
There is a decent sized run of water along the bottom, and you have to rock hop carefully to get in without getting wet.
Not long into the cave, it narrows further into a squeeze, and to continue, you need to climb up four to eight feet and continue to walk along well-placed ridges.
Most of the whole tunnel can actually be travelled in this way, well above the ground.
Except for a few bare places causing you to long for the sticky rubber of climbing shoes, it's actually an easy walk.

Second cave and surrounding mountainside.

Olivier and Eugene at the entrance to the cave.

The entrance.

Laurier climbing in from the right side, Olivier getting over the top of the cascade further on.

The little fall coming out of the cave.

Rachel climbing up the last bit into the cave.

Resident SWAT member, Olivier working his way into the tight part.

Laurier, Olivier, and Eugene pausing along the ledges

Most of the cave looked like this -
Close in on the sides, with various footholds to be found.

Looking at the ground a ways below.

An unfriendly-looking chockstone we passed under.

Carthy, climbing up to the ledges near the beginning.

Carthy and Laurier heading out of the cave.

Olivier and Eugene climbing down the front.

Laurier coming around the side after exiting. (Carthy and Rachel behind.)

Carthy, Eugene, Laurier, and Rachel heading back along the empty creekbed.

Photos taken by Rachel, Carthy, and Olivier.

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