Ice Diving, April 10, 2009

Posted on 10. Apr, 2009 by Greg Mossfeldt in Ice Diving

Great day for diving!

The ice divers today were Steve Aaen, Mike Perdue, Greg McCuaig, Greg Mossfeldt, Leigh-Ann McCuaig, Patrick Brown-Harrison, Jeff Damberger and Dave Eliah.

On our way to Lake Minnewanka we pass a popular diving area called Two Jack Lake. The sister lake had large open water sections so we anticipate the start to the retail diving season will begin shortly. It does place a teaser in ones mind as we continue up to Minnewanka to participate in ice diving. The divers keep their fingers crossed that the ice surface at Minnewanka is still frozen enough to allow us to carry on with our planned activity.

With the great weather we have been experiencing we figured Minnewanka would be absent of the prevailing snow cover we had experienced last weekend. Sure enough we were greeted with sparsely covered patches of snow on the ice surface. We knew then the ambient light in the water would allow a pleasant experience. This would also assist walking to the area we cut our entry/exit less strenuous.

The sun was shining and the group could sense warm weather and an open lake looming in the near distance. The attitudes were positive and the team was glad to be up in the higher elevations enjoying the mountain view which surrounded us.

We left Calgary around 9 AM this morning with Mike Perdue and Steve Aaen driving up with me in my F-150 along with Greg and Leigh-Ann McCuaig in their SUV. Greg and Leigh-Ann carried some of the photographic equipment of mine which could be placed out of harms way as the truck has limited space.

I was the only rebreather diver out today. Weight was quite noticeable as soon as Steve put his twin 130’s in the truck which was followed shortly thereafter with Mike setting his SCUD missile Faber low pressure 130 in the box. When these two storage systems were set in place I could see the engine may not be heavy enough for the front wheels to make even plane with the highway. My story you guys …

On the way up we had a good laugh and we talked about the dive plan. Mike was told when talking to some of the mainstream practitioners that I would cut a hole near shore and swim out to the old bridge pilings just like Marine Boy without any lines. He said there was some reluctance to join us but understood the story grows as time goes on.

I explained to Mike we do make some long journeys under the ice with our scooters with a good flotilla of well maintained vehicles. On occasion we will go from the boat dock to the bridge pilings and back. This is quite a long run considering the temperature of the water and flow on our hands but we always do run a cave line in this icy underworld environment .

The Banff Park gates were lined up a few blocks back but with our good conversation and back up techniques we were passed the congestion in what we viewed as a short time.

Now up on the causeway at Minnewanka we unloaded the gear and Greg McCuaig transported the chain saw and some of the other essential gear out over the 1912 Dam. Mike, Steve and I hastened to donn our drysuits as we could easily observe the slush forming at the bottom of the rocks. The water level drops substantially over the winter months so once we are at the bottom of the rocks we still have a small glacier to navigate. There are hazards to the start of the day as Steve Aaen lodged his foot in one of the ice crevices descending this glacier and wrenched his back in the process.

A conscientious diver had etched steps in the ice glacier which did assist our final descent to the ice slush in a controlled manner. I had broken through the ice here in the past with the momentum one acquires when sliding the last section. Today the ice surface was strong enough to hold our weight but there was a pool of water an inch or so in depth to wade through before getting on the solid surface.

When we made it out to our desired entrance area I started up the chain saw and began to cut the triangle. We anticipated a number of divers that had mentioned they would be on location. We had thought everyone would arrive around the same time in order to share the work load which is inherent to this type of diving. Mike Perdue, Steve Aaen, Greg McCuaig, Leigh-Ann McCuaig and myself played duty call on this one and delved into the process of cutting the entry hole and moving the ice under the surface.

Cutting the hole and pushing the ice under the surface is integral in the camaraderie on an excursion such as this. The gang had a great time riding the large ice blocks and guiding them to location. The sun was shining and the blue sky amidst the mountainous back ground really kept spirits high. Some of the fellows even had to keep their head gear on so as not to suffer the scorn of the sun at elevation this time of year.

Once all the heavy work was completed it was time to dive. Steve was the first to donn his gear and slip into the icy water. Steve decided to make some of the minor adjustments whilst in the water and commandeered Patrick to assist him with details. It was great for pictures and Patrick was right in there lending a hand to keep things going as planned.

Everyone was on OC double cylinders today for the overhead with the exception of myself on the rEvo/ample OC bailout and Mike Perdue with his Scud missile and a back up of breathable gas in an 80 ft3 cylinder slung to his side which would be utilized for redundancy. Mike decided to go with the smaller tank set up today as he was going to try his hand out at underwater baseball. Mike thought he would be able to swing in a less constricted manner and brought some simulated gear in with him to test the mindset. Images of his garment are in the adjoining photographic display. While taking pics of Mike playing the field I did have some difficulty keeping my mouthpiece in while watching these hilarious antics.

I would also have along my new Aquatica camera set up for the pics and carefully slid this set up into the watery ice triangle. The camera was negative 2.5 lbs so did add which is significant to the optimal weighting when diving a CCR. It was somewhat of a struggle at depth as I was having to add gas to my wing but I was not the slick practioner while trying to make the other look their best. Nonetheless I was able to contort myself to take desired images. I also was able to hand off the Aquatica to Mike Perdue whom I watched plummet to the bottom with the onslaught of the heavy system. Mike was able to regain his buoyancy quickly and managed a few shots of rarely seen images of me under the water.

Steve, Mike, Greg M and I made our way down the pumphouse as per usual and I lined myself up at the exit of the culvert. This makes for great imaging so we try to grab this shot enroute as it is a good way to test out my strobe alignment. From here we swam over to the live intake for a quick look and then back to the pump house area.

Patrick, Dave and Jeff had made their way into the water by this time so we mingled with them for a bit, and took some pictures.

We had a lead cannon ball to mark our location which we dropped in the mud a few feet away from the pumphouse so direction to the surface was quite visible. Our group had a somewhat longer dive than what was planned and we ended our submersion after about 45 minutes.

We had to slide our ice blocks back into the hole so Mike Perdue and Greg McCuaig did the honors and took the job to completion. I took some pics of Mike and Greg working under the ice but they proved very efficient in their process and had it all in place by the time we made it back up to the trucks. When the ice blocks were installed as original the fellows marked the area with caution tape and ensured the proper barriers were in place. Leigh-Ann helped the guys out and also took some pictures of the process.

Once we were packed up the group decided to forego Craig’s Waystation for a complementary eat and we headed directly back to my place for a photo display of the days events.

It was a very nice day to get out in the mountains … I forgot to mention how busy it was up there with vehicles driving along the causeway. For the most part people were conscientious and slowed down when passing the parked diving vehicles but there are always the few that speed past without any caution. I am wondering if speed bumps will someday be placed in this area as as usage increases.

I am not sure if the conditions up at Minnewanka will allow us for more dive days under the ice this year but I am already looking forward to continuing exploration out at the old Minnewanka Landing with our XL hull X-Scooters. This time is coming just around the corner.

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