The Bow Valley in the Canadian Rocky Mountains just and hour's drive west of Calgary is a popular destination for visitors from around the world. Every year millions of people make the journey to the small mountain towns of Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise to take in the world-class mountain vistas, wildlife viewing and backcountry adventures.
With all of this distracting scenery and activities it's easy for us to forget that these mountains have been home to humans for thousands of years before European settlers made their way to the Bow Valley. Evidence of these early inhabitants is elusive even if you have an idea of where to look because over time these sites can be weathered and worn to the point they are barely recognizable.
Around the town of Canmore there are three relatively easy-to-access sites home to ancient pictographs, which are paintings that have been made on rock with a mixture of red ochre and grease - not to be confused with petroglyphs, which are etchings made in the rock. While the pictographs have faded over time (and unfortunately also due to vandalism) it is still possible to see the original paintings at Grassi Lakes, Grotto Canyon, and Rats Nest Cave and they are a great way to sneak a peek into a piece of the valley's past.
By weekday, Charlotte Moller is a Calgary-based computer programmer and mom of two teens.
By weekend, she’s a caving enthusiast, exploring some of the most fascinating underground hollows in the Canadian Rockies.
While Charlotte loves the unique thrill of caving, she’ll tell you that it’s a passion that entered her life quite unexpectedly – and required some time to win her over.
Like many parents, Charlotte was determined to encourage her teens to trade screen-time for outdoor activity. So when she stumbled across an ad for Canmore Cave Tours, she knew it might just be unique enough to catch the eye of her teenage son, Alex.
But if she was to make it happen, she knew she’d need to practise what she preached – even if that meant pushing her own comfort zone to the limit, including feelings of claustrophobia. Rising above her initial discomfort, Charlotte faced her fears and now counts caving among her favourite activities.
We caught up with Charlotte to find out more about how her impressions of caving have completely transformed over time, and how discovering this unique shared interest with her son has strengthened their relationship more than she could have imagined.
Check out our Q&A with Charlotte below – happy Mother’s Day!
Christian Stenner reflects on the miracle moments before “THAT photo”: Exploring the world’s largest network of volcanic steam caves in Mt Rainier National Park
Looking at this photo, what do you see? While Christian Stenner may appear stoic at first glance, he says his gaze in this image is filled with gratitude, reflection, and most of all: relief.
In the dark wilderness of steam caves inside Mt Rainier – an active volcano and the highest peak in Washington State, USA – this image was captured after one of the most intense experiences of his life.
Here in Alberta, Canada, Christian discovered a passion for caving inside Rat’s Nest Cave with Canmore Cave Tours in 2004. Now, he’s the Alberta Provincial Coordinator for the volunteer-run Alberta/BC Cave Rescue Service – and his passion for caving continues to grow.
Today, he shares the story behind this memorable photo, captured in the depths of Mt Rainier.
Family visit sparks unexpected passion for caving: Meet Banff’s Emma Chatterway
Headlamps illuminating water-worn passages. Stalagmites and stalactites glistening overhead. An underground universe teeming with hidden fascinations, yet a unique sense of calm.
That’s what Emma Chatterway discovered the first time she stepped into Rat’s Nest Cave – and she’s been hooked ever since.
Meet “Professor Cave”, Founder of Canmore Cave Tours
Dr Charles “Chas” Yonge PhD (Geology) reflects on launching a unique business, and his lifelong passion for cave science and exploration.
In late 2017, Canmore Cave Tours marked 25 years of adventure – unlocking underground fascination for tens of thousands of guests since our first tour in 1992. While we don’t like to brag, we’re delighted to celebrate this milestone for many reasons. Thanks to the overwhelming support and enthusiasm from YOU, our guests, and our passionate team, we’ve built a reputation of which we’re truly proud.
As of 2018, we’ve been ranked #1 on TripAdvisor’s list of Top Things to Do in Canmore for a total of 5 years, designated as a Canadian Signature Winter Experience by Destination Canada for the last 3 years, and we've won the 2018 Alberta Business Award of Distinction for small businesses.
So we thank you for joining our caving tours and courses, and unEarthed events, for posting your reviews on TripAdvisor, and recommending us to your friends and families – it means the world to us to hear that you have enjoyed your experiences and shared them with others.
As we celebrate 25 years of Canmore Cave Tours, we caught up with Dr Charles “Chas” Yonge PhD, founder and previous owner of the company. To learn about Chas’ inspiration behind the business, highlights of his caving adventures around the world, his current projects, and how he sees his legacy living on today – read on and join us as we head underground with “Professor Cave” himself!