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.
When citizen science meets personal discovery: Reflections on caving as “one of the last unexplored frontiers on our planet”
Throughout history, humans have been drawn to explore wild places that no other person has seen before.
For modern-day explorers like Calgary’s Christian Stenner, caving offers one of the final frontiers of discovery on earth.
“That was the first thing that struck me. Here’s this sport where you can go and not only explore, you might actually find something unique,” Stenner says.
Stenner embarked on his first caving experience inside Rat’s Nest Cave with Canmore Cave Tours in 2004, and he’s been hooked ever since – now an office worker by weekday, and passionate cave explorer and rescue coordinator by weekend.
“Some of the places are so remote, you could very well be in a place where no human has ever been, whether it’s exploring a new cave passage, or a lead in a known cave that nobody has ever checked out before. It’s one of the last unexplored frontiers on our planet.”
Many Canadian cavers know the work of François-Xavier De Ruydts (Fix), who has photographed caving expeditions for Canadian Geographic, National Geographic, and many other publications. Fix has moved from still photography into video, and has been working full time on a new video series, Terres d'Exploration. Produced by Magali Gillon-Krizaj, in the series two explorers Damien Briguet and François-Xavier De Ruydts set out to discover the natural history of Canada. They use their unique combination of skills to offer us a fresh look at the natural world and explore the most unusual places. Now shooting the second season, Fix has gone back to one of his adventure photography standbys for material, caving. For an upcoming episode in season two, tentatively titled “Grottes: Le monde de l'ombre” or “Caves: The world of shadows” he is focusing on the world of Canada’s caves, and is joining some expeditions to showcase our natural underworld.