Caving Courses

An Adventure in Growth

Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself physically or mentally, individually or as a team, Caving offers a multitude of opportunities to grow.

Investigating a cave map and learning cave navigation during a horizontal caving course

Introduction to Caving

Caving is a very rewarding sport, pass-time or hobby. Whether you are passionate about exploration, driven to understand the Earth and its processes, or looking for a fun activity away from the crowds, caving can provide a lifetime of excitement.

The Canmore Cave Tours Introduction to Caving Course introduces those with little or no experience to the world of caves, teaching the basic skills required to safely enjoy and appreciate the truly special places that caves are.

No experience is required. Our goal is to give you tools you need to join other cavers and to get out there and see the (under)world.

Upcoming Dates:

  • Dec. 10, 2023
  • Feb 25, 2024

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A cave is an amazing place to visit with so much opportunity for exploration, inspiration and personal growth. Visiting a cave, however, requires a specific skills unique to the sport of caving which ensure the safety of both the caver and the cave.

Your instructor will introduce you to the various aspects of planning a caving trip, including choosing the appropriate terrain, equipment and caving partners. Learn how to safely move through a cave and how to navigate using cave-specific maps so as to best meet your team’s goals while protecting the delicate cave environment. In this course you will gain the skills and confidence that you need to join other more experienced cavers on non-technical caving trips and to be an effective member of the team.

You will meet your instructor at the Canmore Cave Tours office in Canmore where you will get a brief overview of the day, sign the waiver, collect your caving equipment and then drive in convoy to the cave parking lot (approximately 7 minutes away). All of your caving equipment is provided. Please see the FAQ section for more information on what is provided and what to bring.

The hike to the cave will take approximately 30-40 minutes up a moderately steep mountain trail at a leisurely pace. Once you reach the cave, you will don your equipment and head underground. Mini lectures will occur throughout the day with plenty of time for asking questions.

You will spend approximately 4-5 hours underground, after which you will return to the Cave Tours office to review the day and dive into some of the theory of caving. Total length of the course is approximately 8 hours and the course requires a moderate level of fitness. You will be required to climb, crawl, wiggle and slide your way through the cave, with some time to practice some (optional) squeezes.

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A male student climbs a rope using single rope technique during a vertical caving course

Vertical Caving Course

Single Rope Techinque, or SRT, is the means by which cavers access the more technical areas within caves, using ropes and specialized techniques and equipment to progress through a multitude of obstacles.

This two-part course will prepare participants to join technical caving trips under the guidance of more experienced cavers. We recommend having at least some experience underground before undertaking this course.

Part 1: Primer, will be an entirely indoor day and we will cover SRT theory, equipment and best practices and then introduce SRT techniques in a warm, dry, comfortable setting.

Part 2: Ignition, we take our new SRT skills underground to hone and polish them in real-world scenarios.

Upcoming Dates:

Part 1: Primer

  • Nov 26, 2023
  • Jan 7, 2024
  • Feb 11, 2024

Part 2: Ignition

  • Jan 28, 2024
  • Mar 17, 2024

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The first part of this program will be spent at the Canmore Cave Tours office where we will learn some of the theory of SRT and practice our vertical skills in a nice warm, dry space before taking them out into the real world. Repetition is the key to success for technical skills like SRT so prepare to spend a lot of time on rope. You will learn how to use all of the necessary equipment, how to recognize and prevent potential problems, and how to move efficiently through all of the obstacles you might encounter in a cave.

Part 2 we will head to Rat's Nest Cave to try out our new skills in the real world. You will demonstrate skill proficiency as you progress through our vertical ropes course, and will be slowly introduced to more challenges along the way.

This is not a certification course. Many of these skills will be completely new to you and you will need to master one skill before moving on to the next. Our goal is to work with you at a pace with which you are comfortable, and to give you the confidence to go home and practice these skills safely with the knowledge of what you know well, and what you might still need to work on. The techniques taught in this course are strenuous, and a good level of fitness is required. Please contact us if you have any questions about the physical requirements of this course.

Please note that food and accommodation is not provided.

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Cave guides giving a thumbs up in the Grand Gallery of Rat's Nest Cave

SRT Tune-Up

Need to polish up your SRT before a big trip? Maybe it's been a few years and you're looking to get back into the cave. Or maybe you you just finished the Vertical Caving Primer and you need to work on a few skills before jumping into the cave?

The SRT Tune-Up workshop is for cavers who already know SRT but need a little more practice and support. We'll work through obstacles in our office mini ropes course and help you build the confidence you need to go play underground.

Equipment provided on request.

Upcoming Dates:

  • 6 pm Jan 11, 2024
  • 6 pm Feb 15, 2024
  • 6 pm Mar 14, 2024

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Investigating a cave map and learning cave navigation during a horizontal caving course

Pick-Off Workshop

Learning to go up and down a rope is only one part of using SRT in a cave safely. But what if you get stranded on a rope. Are your team members prepared to get you off the rope?

Pick-offs are a strenusous, often unpleasant, but highly important skill for any caver to have in their toolbox. In this 4-hour workshop we will learn and practice pickoffs in the comfort of our mini-indoor ropes course.

All participants in this workshop must be highly proficient in SRT. Efficiency is critical to successfully achieving a pickoff and the middle of a rescue is no place to be trying to remember how to do a changover. Your rescue buddy will not appreciate it! You will also need a full SRT setup in order to participate. SRT equipment can be provided on request, subject to availability.

You will spend substantial time in close proximity with your rescue buddy, so you may want to bring someone who doesn't mind...

Upcoming Dates:

  • 6 pm Jan 11, 2024
  • 6 pm Feb 15, 2024
  • 6 pm Mar 14, 2024

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A male student climbs a rope using single rope technique during a vertical caving course

Introduction to Cave Surveying

The opportunity to explore new caves is one of the most common reasons for new cavers to join the sport, and in Canada we have ample opportunity for exploration. The unwritten rule in caving, though, is that not one inch of cave is explored unless it is surveyed, meaning if you want to be at the sharp end of exploration you need to know how to survey!

This course will introduce you to the process of surveying in a cave, specifically with regards to collecting and managing the survey data. You will learn both analog and digital measurement techniques, and well as how to accurately record and sketch the collected data.

At the end of this course you will be able to confidently join a survey team and have a good understanding of the survey process. Those who want to take their survey skills to the next level should look for our cartography course where we teach you how to take your data and sketches and create highly accurate and beautiful cave maps.

Upcoming Dates:

  • Jan 21, 2024
  • Mar 3, 2024

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This program will be spent almost entirely in Rat's Nest Cave to maximize your time learning the necessary survey skills. You will work with analog and digital survey tools in teams to practice all roles of a survey team.

All caving and surveying equipment will be provided. You may bring your own equipment on request (it must be inspected by your instructor prior to approval).

Please note that food and accommodation is not provided.

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Is there a minimum age?

The minimum age for the Horizontal Caving Course is 12 years.

The minimum age for the Vertical Caving Course is 16 years.

The minimum age for a teambuilding program is 10 years. (We can customize a Discovery Hike program for younger ages on special request)

Is there a maximum size?

Generally speaking, fitness is more of a concern than size. However, all participants must wear a safety harness which has a maximum waist size of 46" (116 cm) and a maximum leg size of 33" (84 cm). If you have any concerns about size please don't hesitate to contact us.

What is included and what should I bring?

We provide all of the necessary caving equipment including coveralls, kneepads, gloves, helmet & headlamp, harness & safety lanyard, and backpack. The backpack will be shared by two people and will not go into the cave. We will also provide you with a Clif Bar energy bar, and a 500mL bottle of water (in a reusable bottle that is yours to keep).

You will need to bring good footwear, warm clothing, a camera (optional) and if you have any dietary restrictions, please bring a snack that you know works for you. Also, if you will require medication during the tour it is a good idea to bring 2x what you would expect to use, just in case.

Footwear must be closed-toe and should have a sturdy tread. Hiking boots or shoes are best, but a sturdy running shoe will also work. Other options include rubber boots or winter boots (in the winter)

The cave is 5 degrees celsius, so warm clothing is recommended. Imagine what you would wear if you had to spend a few hours in a refrigerator. We recommend long pants, long sleeves, a warm sweater, hoodie or jacket. Synthetic fabrics are best as they will keep you warm even if you get wet.

Any cameras going into the cave will need to fit into your pockets. We do not allow backpacks in the cave. Small point-and-shoot cameras or smart phones are welcome but please keep in mind that the cave environment is not particularly friendly towards electronics. High humidity and dust can damage equipment, and screens can break if you accidentally sit on it. Electronics are brought at your own risk.

Is transportation provided?

No, transportation is not provided. If you do not have your own vehicle we can arrange a taxi to the cave for you at an additional cost. You can use Canmore's public transit to get to our office.

Are there rats or bats?

Rat's Nest Cave is named after the nests of Bushy-tailed Wood Rats found in the entrance. This species of super-cute rodents is native to the area and they use the cave as a home due to it's constantly warm temperatures and protection from predators. We rarely see the rats, and if we do there is usually just one.

Bat's are rarely seen at Rat's Nest Cave. The cave is not a hibernaculum (a place where bats hibernate through the winter). We usually only see the occasional bat in the summer as they are passing through the area.

Are these programs suitable for me if I'm pregnant?

Yes, but only up until the end of the first trimester (12 weeks).

It is always advisable to seek advice from your doctor when participating in activities like caving.

Will I Need to sign a waiver?

Yes, all participants will need to complete a liability waiver. We recommend you review the waiver before booking your tour, but you will sign the waiver once you have arrived and have been briefed by your guide. Any minors must have their waiver signed by a parent or legal guardian before participating on the tour.

View and Download the Waiver