No, this isn’t a Tarzan like story and the Rat’s Nest Cave isn’t where Max met his Jane, at least it’s not the likely story based on our conversation about his wife’s feelings towards the cave. He wasn’t technically raised in the cave either, but he did spend a good portion of his childhood exploring it with his parents.
Max does describe the cave as his true home, while his house is just somewhere he sleeps at night. Spending equal hours inside it and out, he’s intimately familiar with what’s currently been discovered of the cave so far. Max’s story is more similar to discoverers like Sir Robert McClure who was the first to transit the Northwest Passage. Keep reading if you want to hear all about how he came to caving and why he still sticks with it.
What we’ve discovered right now is presumably just the tip of the iceberg. What you need is to find where the water must have drained out. The nearest place for that is Cougar Creek here in Canmore, but even that isn’t a large enough basin to account for how much cave passage we’ve found. So, if you keep moving along this row of mountains, the next body of water is Lake Minnewanka, that has got to be how long this cave goes. Now, whether that is big enough for us to fit into or how much of it is filled with mud is up for grabs. It’s been four decades to find four kilometers – we’ve barely started here. Dr. Charles Yonge, the original owner, estimates it to be approximately 50 km long. It’s like my kids’, kids’, kids could still be working on this.
And that’s my main argument for having kids - to have nice small people to send through small holes, my wife is not impressed by this.
I think of the cave as my home, and my house is just a building that I sleep in. I have such a special connection with the cave. I’ve been in it longer than any house I’ve ever lived in. And that’s why when I came into this, I was expecting to find more passion and learn more, but it’s become very much not even about the cave anymore.
I get to meet the most amazing people, every single day. Pretty much no one has a caving background; our joke is that it’s an underground sport and not many people know of it. My guests are people who don’t mind doing something completely new and slightly scary for the very first time and they’re opting to do that with their free time. Those are incredible people, so open.
I’ve had the cool opportunity to organize special events like meditation, music, and speakers all in the cave. I get to learn so much from people with different walks of life. I’m not just learning science from the guides, it’s performance and story-telling and finding connections with people. I get to see the cave through their eyes as well. Musicians go in the cave and their jaws hang, they literally stop the performance to say: “how cool is this.” It’s a good stop-gap for complacency. It’s clear-headed appreciation of the miracle of the cave that should be appreciated.
It’s literally passages, rock, and mud. But you bring your own experiences and history and you craft a life-changing experience for yourself. The cave is simply a medium. It can be a struggle to let your old self go, but the type 2 comes in at the end when you can’t believe how amazing it was.
I think all walks of life discover their adventurous side. Maybe you have other passions that are more prominent, and we cater to those with our ongoing lecturer series, photographers in the cave, and the meditation/mindfulness connection. There are people who would never in their lives want to go caving but would love to meditate in a cave – we want to share it with them. The cave has so many stories, we will find a story that connects with you.