By Christian Stenner and Kathleen Graham
Castleguard Cave has been featured in speleological writings since modern exploration began with Dr. Derek Ford and his team in the late 1960s. At 21 km in known length, it is Canada’s longest. Although this length pales in comparison to many longer caves in the world, its alpine setting, unique formations, biology, and terminus underneath the Columbia Icefield combine for an extraordinary landmark. This presentation will cover highlights of the exploration history of Castleguard, the current exploration projects, and challenges.
One of the most challenging leads that may reveal a new system of passages is at Boon’s Sump. British diver Martin Groves conducted a series of dives using a closed-circuit rebreather, cracked the sump, and emerged into an ongoing, dry passage. Martin had returned in 2012 with plans to continue exploration in the passage beyond the sump. After over 40 years of relative stability, we found the ice crawl located a few hundred meters into the entrance frozen shut. Since then, the ice crawl has been an intermittent problem that has prevented a return.
After the massive cave rescue operation in Thailand, Richard Harris and Craig Challen, key members of the response, as well as New Zealand caver Tom Crisp, opted to take on the Boon’s Sump dive project. Additional leads and projects deep in the cave were also waiting for a return. Partnered with the Alberta Speleological Society, the Return to Castleguard took place over 2 weeks in March 2020, just before the country had started enacting drastic changes due to the crippling pandemic.