Family time
with a twist

Meet the mom-and-son-duo taking quality time 30m underground

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:

  • CCT

    Can you tell us about your first experience in Rat’s Nest Cave? What was challenging?
  • Charlotte

    Alex and I drove out to Canmore and went on the Adventure Tour, and he loved it immediately. But for me, squeezing through tight spaces was completely the opposite of my idea of fun, and it was just a way to encourage us to be active together. I must admit, I was terrified as I felt rock against my back and squeezed through tight crevices. Luckily, our guides were very supportive and experienced. I managed to get over my fears, and complete the whole tour by powering through, and not thinking too much. But to me, it was a ‘something you do once’ type of activity, like zip-lining, so I didn’t plan to return.
  • CCT

    …But luckily, you did! What made you decide to go back?
  • Charlotte

    Raising a teenage boy nowadays, it’s challenging to compete with the compelling natures of screens: computer games, YouTube, social media. I’ve always loved camping, hiking, and backpacking and I want my children to enjoy being active outside. But as they have grown up, it has been harder to find opportunities for them to play sport for fun, not competitively.

    Since Alex enjoyed the first cave tour so much, I was keen to encourage him to keep doing it. But I wasn't confident in either of us being able to go caving on our own. So when some friends expressed interest in going caving, we decided to join them and do the Adventure Tour again.

  • CCT

    Can you tell us about the moments when fear turned into fun?
  • Charlotte

    After that, to continue to encourage Alex to find a new active pursuit, I signed us up for the Horizontal Caving Course with Canmore Cave

    Tours. Exploring the Wild Side [a technically-demanding section of the cave not included on tours, requiring specific training] on that course was a whole new level of challenging for me. I was very proud to do it, even though I didn't have the courage to go through the Birth Canal [a challenging cave passage] during that trip.

    Adam [Canmore Cave Tours’ Owner and Head Guide] was a star. I can still remember clearly his patient, encouraging voice coaching me through it. Even though the course was tough, that was when I started to truly enjoy caving and genuinely wanted to do more of it. It’s such a unique activity, and it’s wonderful that I can share it with my teenage son.

  • CCT

    What makes caving special to you? What do you enjoy about the experience?
  • Charlotte

    It’s so different, and it’s fun to be doing something that not many other people do! I also love spending time with Alex and having something special that we can do together. Near the end of our first year of caving together, we also met another caver named Jesse, and he has become a very close friend to both of us. Crawling around in the dark and the mud for hours really does bring people together! We have all formed a special bond through our experiences.

    I also enjoy the satisfaction of getting stronger and fitter the more caving I do. It’s great feeling to know I can go further and do more challenging rope work in the cave than I could initially.

  • CCT

    What’s it like to share such a unique common interest with your son?
  • Charlotte

    For many years, Alex and his Dad have shared weekly karate, a passion for computer games, and a talent for math, which really strengthened their bond. For Alex and I, it has been awesome for our relationship to have this common interest to share together. I like being the kind of Mom who can take on the challenges of caving.
  • CCT

    Caving has become a serious passion for you two! How many times have you and Alex explored Rat’s Nest Cave?
  • Charlotte

    We have done three Adventure Tours and one Explorer Tour with Canmore Cave Tours – we did the first two together, then the other two with friends and relatives. It's a lot of fun to share the cave with others.

    As of 2018, both of us have taken the Horizontal Caving Course and Vertical Caving Course twice each. We’ve also taken a tour of Gargantua cave and a tour of Nakimu, also with Canmore Cave Tours. On top of the tours, I’ve also been at least 10 times in the Wild Side of Rat's Nest Cave, and a few times on the tour side, during Alberta Speleological Society trips. Alex has also attended the unEarthed events such as Spirit in the Mountain, and has gone on more than 54 self-guided tours of Rat’s Nest Cave.

  • CCT

    It sounds like caving has opened up some great opportunities for you and Alex to explore with like-minded adventurers! Can you tell us about your involvement with the Alberta Speleological Society?
  • Charlotte

    fter taking the first Horizontal Caving Course, Alex and I wanted to take our caving further, so Adam and the team recommended that we joined the Alberta Speleological Society, which organizes caving trips and provides volunteers in the event of rescues. Today, Alex and I are both members. I also maintain the A.S.S. website and participate in the SAGM, the AGM, and Bring a Friend events. For the last two years I’ve also led a beginner trip into Rat's Nest Cave for the Bring a Friend event, which has been a great opportunity.

    As someone who now sometimes leads beginners on trips, I recommend that anyone who is interested to join an A.S.S. trip takes the Horizontal and Vertical Caving Courses beforehand. Caves are not hugely dangerous places, but even a small injury can cause challenges because of the difficulty of rescue. The knowledge you gain through those courses is the best way to prepare yourself and stay safe, and have the best possible experience.

  • CCT

    What would you say to someone who might be hesitant to go caving for the first time?
  • Charlotte

    Don't over-think it! Even if you are nervous about tight spaces, that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy caving. Alex always says, “claustrophobia is an irrational fear of tight spaces, whereas fear of tight spaces in a cave is a totally rational fear”. But once you’re down there, it doesn’t last long if you put your trust in yourself and your guides, and keep an open mind. I’m glad I did – it’s taken me to places I never dreamed of, and really has brought Alex and I closer together. And that’s pretty special.

Want to step outside your comfort zone – and maybe discover a whole new passion along the way? Find out more about our Horizontal and Vertical Caving Courses, or book your Canmore Cave Tours adventure today!