Ice Diving, February 19th & 20th, 2010

Posted on 20. Feb, 2010 by Greg Mossfeldt in Ice Diving

It looked to be warm for ice diving today. The plan was to dive with Dave Elia but first I would have to stop at the Banff Park Warden's office to pick up a Restricted Activity Permit for Ice diving plus the chain saw permit.

I met Dave up at the lake for around 9:30 AM and we decided we weren't up for a big walk out to the boat house to cut our ice hole. We cut the hole right at the bottom of the rocks and would run a cave line to the 1912 Dam from there. It was nice to just come down the rocks and be right at the hole. Also we took all the ice up and on the surface as the plan was to do some underwater photography and we wanted a clean area looking up from the water.

Dave and I worked with two chain saws to cut the hole and all went well. It was more work to bring everything out and up but there is a method to this madness.

Terry Forsyth and his wife Sheila were out at the lake with their children Paige and Chase. Terry is the Premiere Ice Diving Instructor in the Alberta area and is leading ice courses throughout the winter. Today was the first of numerous training days for their outlet "Adventures in Scuba" and his crew was out in full force to assemble the event to success.

Day Two of our diving saw the inclusion of James Dixon from Elko, British Columbia. James is an enthusiastic diver and is striving to improve his skill level through technical dive training. James was out today practicing his valve drills along with line/reel adherence along with simply enjoying the day of diving.

The hole Dave and I designed yesterday had frozen over so we had to make the cuts in order to clean the ice back out so we could enter the water. We were quite proficient with the system at this point so it took minimal effort and we were ready to get back into the water. The ambient surface temperature was cooler than the previous day so we did note our gear, namely the regulators were a struggle getting the DIN fittings to seat. We had to dip them into the lake water and Dave poured hot beverage on his fittings to melt any formed ice.

Once our threesome had all gear issues sorted, we went over to the ice tent and listened to Terry briefing both his students and fun divers on the disciplines of ice diving. The briefing was very thorough and once complete the participants were off assembling their gear for the adventure. Terry had five students participating in the course and seven divers that were certified previously. Terry realizes how important it is to keep skills up in this intensive exercise so he offers his veteran ice divers a platform to enjoy the activity after newly certified practitioners have completed their goals.

Dave, James and I then went back to our place in the sun, put on our gear and slid into the water. By this time the tourists were starting to form and seeing how our ice hole was so close to the roadway we had many individuals asking questions about our diving. Dave was enthusiastic about answering their queries so he was the lead information guide today. I think Dave came to appreciate our abstinence in dealing with the public by the end of the day and was glad to slide into the silence of the frozen lake water here at Minnewanka.

The plan was to start the dive out with valve drills so I demonstrated the skills and handed the stage over to James Dixon. James had broken his hand earlier in the year making dolls for his children so it was still very tender. James was sporting his new "Diving Concepts" drysuit so we both thought it would be a breeze for him. James reached back for his right post and immediately felt the pain in his hand so we aborted the exercise and continued along the laid line to the 1912 Dam.

We carried on down deep past the sluiceway and then it was up to the 1912 stamp. We lingered here for a brief time for pictures and then it was over to the top of the pumphouse. Someone had brought their goodies from home like a shovel, pot, and some cleaning utensils and put them on the top of the pumphouse so they appeared as artifacts from the turn of the century. We understood the nature of their origin so Dave checked the artificial artifacts out to a greater degree.

It was then back down to our guide system and a heading towards shore. The dive brought us back into the shallows. Once we arrived back at our point of exit we revelled at how cool our exit/entrance design appeared from the watery perspective. I took some images of the bottom contour in contrast with the ice carving before we exited.

All three of us had a great experience on the dive and it was now time clean up the systems and place the ice blocks back in the hole to assist the surface to freeze over. We applied caution tape around the ingress to keep unweary people away for the potential issues. The water freezes over the evening between the blocks we cut out and the next day it is a frozen lake surface.

The diving was uneventful this weekend which offered no surprises and the camaraderie was fantastic all around. I know myself I enjoyed the company of all and felt very fortunate to participate yet again in this practice. Thanks to all!

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