Nexus Cave Adventure
August 22nd and 23rd, 2009
Caves have always held a certain mystique for me. The dark, foreboding, hidden underworld of unseen depths and danger have always called out to me.
Living in Southern Ontario Canada, there isn’t much opportunity for caving in our area except for some small, short “belly crawl” caves and the odd old mine.
On June 20, 2008 a new conservation area known as Eramosa Karst was officially opened in Hamilton Ontario, boasting a new series of cave networks. One of which, the Nexus Cave is the 10th largest cave in Ontario! I sent a few e-mails through facebook to see if fellow adventurer Sadie and an urbexer I knew were interested in going to the caves near the end of August and doing some exploration of them.
The weekend started off again with poor weather. As most of the summer of 2009 – rain, rain and more rain. I decided on Saturday to make a quick trip to the Nexus Cave with fellow adventurer and best mate Chuck and see if the caves were flooded. Thankfully, despite the constant storms, the caves had almost no water running through them and the exploration could take place on August 23rd as planned.
A beautiful morning dawned on Sunday, and I awoke excited to take a trek into some new territory. Checking my morning e-mail I learned that one set of urbex adventurers couldn’t make it and had to cancel. Sadie said she was thinking of cancelling as well because she had a rough night. A quick phone call with a bit of convincing and Sadie reluctantly agreed to go with us. I packed up all my gear, LED torches, medical pack, coveralls and switched to the yellow lenses in my ESS v12 goggles and we were on our way. Taking the big GMC Suburban, we picked up Chuck and Sadie and headed to Hamilton to the Eramosa Karst conservation area.
Arriving around 11:15hrs we relaxed for a bit, changed into our caving gear and Sadie took some photographs and mended some of her equipment. We waited until 11:30 incase the urbex team decided to join us.
We arrived at the Nexus Window after a short 1km hike, which was a little challenging on our bare feet as the paths were groomed, hard packed stone. The Nexus window was a small crack in the ground at the base of the tree. Peering into the crack, it was about 2m deep full of mosquitoes and had a little bit of water running through it. Hardly the place one would think of as a cave entrance.
We removed our packs and Chuck decided he was going to stay topside for this adventure as our spotter. In the event anything went wrong he was equipped with a whistle, mobile phone and SPOT Satellite messenger unit capable of activating EMS.
Descending into the small crack in the ground, the smooth cool rocks felt strange underfoot. Caving exposes one to a truly different world. The air has a cool, damp feeling to it and smells very earth-like. The cave entrance is small, and looks very foreboding to enter. You have to lay on your belly, as your torch shines into the distance you can see shiny rocks that look like a giant sponge. Smooth, jagged, and full of holes, followed by blackness.
I was the first one to head into the caves wearing my camouflage coveralls, goggles to protect my eyes and a Petzl LED headlamp. I picked some of the glass out of the shallow water, and wriggled my way into the cave system, bidding sunlight goodbye and welcoming the darkness.
The darkness beckons as I slowly crawled through the cave on my stomach, feeling the cold water slowly seep through my coveralls and touch my skin. The path in front of me is illuminated by my primary light source, and the walls glisten gold. Millions of years ago when the water carved the softer stone away from these caves, deposits of minerals like gold and pyrite (fools gold) got left behind making the entire cave light up like road markings in a car’s headlight. I looked behind me to see both Sadie and Tori – amased at the sight around them, slowly crawling through.
We stopped in a section of cave where it opened up to about the size of the inside of a small car. We crouched together and looked around in wonderment of this place. The cool water and mud flowed over our bare feet and we could feel the minerals on the rocks with our hands. We took some photos and slowly navigated on, doing our best to avoid the large brown spiders in the area.
The torches we had illuminated our immediate area, and off in the distance total darkness. Strange formations of rock lay out before us which have never seen sunlight in tens of thousands of years – if ever. Like being inside a maze of rock, we contorted ourselves in all different directions to move through this cave system, being careful not to collect any bruises or bang our unprotected heads more than necessary.
Coming around a bend, I could hear water running in the distance, Looking around me I could see roots hanging down from the trees above which have penetrated the cave in search of life-giving water. In some small pockets there were little green shoots trying to grow leaves. More proof that nature never gives up and will try to bring life to the most baron of places.
Moving forward in the cave, I came to a large drop with a little waterfall in the cave. I sat down in the waterfall and made sure that there was a way to climb back out, and slowly inched my way into the area below. My bare feet gripping tight the rock walls better than the rubber of any shoe. Sadie was next in line and made her way down the waterfall with little assistance. As Sadie was seeking footholds, I noticed the waterfall had stopped flowing and I told Sadie jokingly she was “plugging up the hole.” She moved forward and a rush of water which had collected behind her made a puking sound as it rushed past and onto the cave floor below. We all laughed at the sound. Tori came last and had to be carried down because of her short stature.
When we looked around us, we were in a large round room the size of a bedroom in a house. A trickle of a waterfall ran over the one edge and off into the distance. Above us spanned huge pieces of rock worn smooth from a raging river in the caves past. We couldn’t reach the top of this area if we jumped up – it was huge. Small “shelves” of smooth rock protruded everywhere and hid articles which had been swept down by the waterfall including antique bottles and modern articles like ziploc bags and articles of clothing.
When I bring new people into caves, I love to show them how dark caves really are. As we were in a very large room in the cave, which had solid footing, I asked both Sadie and Tori to turn off their torches, as I turned off mine. The cave returned to its primal darkness. After a minute or two of letting your eyes attempt to adjust and the colour images on your eyes fade, it becomes apparent how dark caves are.
Looking around, with no source of light there is nothing. It’s as close as a sighted person can get to experiencing blindness. Holding your hand in front of your face, and touching your nose, nothing is visible. Under these controlled circumstances it’s quite a thrill to experience this. Under uncontrolled circumstances such as torch failure it can mean certain death.
When we turned on our torches again and looked around, the cave continued on in the bottom corner of the room. I got down on my belly and crawled through the cave until it started to get very tight. Rocks protruding out on each side made passing very difficult. Tori – who is extremely small volunteered to go forward to see if the adventure was worth continuing. She slipped over the rocks and off into the darkness to report that ahead of us lay a sump – a section of cave which was mostly filled with water and was still relatively tight. We decided not to go further this trip and Tori slowly backed her way through the darkness back to me and navigated the narrow passageway back to the large room in the cave.
We took some more photos and gripped the cool, wet rocks and made our way back to the upper section of the cave. We slowly worked our way crawling on hands and knees back towards our entrance point. Looking ahead I could see Sadie had managed to get herself a little wedged on one section of the cave and was trying to wriggle herself free. I laughed and commented that if she remained stuck I would start to kick her in the buttocks until she got free.
Crawling through the caves, I saw a little bit of light in the distance, and saw Tori followed by Sadie stand upright and head back to the world of the living above. I crawled further until I saw they were at the Nexus Window and I inched my way into it and sat upright for the first time in quite a while.
Chuck had descended into the Nexus Window to assist us in getting out of the cave safely. As I climbed through the area into the sunlight, the warm, fresh air filled my lungs and sunlight brushed my face with warmth. Although the caves were an amazing place it felt so good to be back on the surface again. It’s almost like your body rejoices in the warmth and sunlight and makes you feel as if you haven’t felt it in a year.
The ground feels so soft underfoot, and the air so fresh and clean in the forest. Removing our caving gear we were approached by a couple of hikers who did not realise there was a cave system here and were quite impressed with some of the photos. As we were leaving the area it started to first spit rain, then turned into quite a downpour as we made our way over the stone packed trails towards the truck.
Rounding a bend on the trail, the parking lot and then our truck came into view. Off in the distance huge, dark clouds could be seen. Some very dark and so thick they looked like they were touching the ground. We checked the fluids in the truck and headed out to a pub, the Judge and Jester to relax and recount our latest adventure.
The complete photo album of this visit can be found here.