Bearcat Caves generates a lot of local interest and we get frequent enquiries about how to get there and what it is like. We returned back to Bearcat Caves in June of 2016 coming in by the original route detailed in earlier articles.
For a couple of years, the main road through the Monte Hills had been closed. We could see why when we came through this time. A section of the road had been washed away in a slide in a newly logged area. The resource road has since been rebuilt and we were able to go all the way through to the final section on secondary backroads, some of them deactivated and a bit rough. Anyone who goes in will need a high-clearance vehicle (a chainsaw would also be a good idea) This is a remote, rough area.
We found the parking area and then we hiked east toward the slope, picking up a bit of a trail and some flagging tape. The hillside is covered in deadfall so the flagging tape helps hikers through a maze of obstacles. Search and Rescue also flagged many of the fissures of the area, but we find new ones each time we explore the area. Some of the “caves” are just vertical holes to underground fissures.
We entered 5 of the caves which we knew were safe approaches. None of the entry passages are marked, but we know them from having explored the caves before. Three of the best caves have steep dirt slopes down into the fissures.
Photography inside the caves is not easy. In the darkest chambers, flash or a long exposure works fairly well, but a tripod is a better way to get crisper photos. In many parts of the caves, light filters in from above or at the end of the tunnels, creating overexposed shots, but the natural light on the cave walls still makes interesting photos.
In the deeper chambers, we encountered a lot of ice and snow, requiring additional careful scrambling.
There is one point where a deeper hole down to a lower chamber. This passage requires a climbing rope and should only be attempted by experienced climbers with proper equipment. The Ice Slide is a “keeper”, a spot that an individual could not climb out on their own.
On our last trip and explorations, were able to work our way horizontally through a squeeze point into a dark cathedral-shaped chamber, but on this exploration in June the ice was melting, leaving deeper pools of water on top of ice on the narrow passage floor.
Snow and ice also covered rock and the sloped floor in the south-end chambers so we climbed back out and found caves that were not quite as deep to explore for the rest of the day. It is an all-day trip to the Bearcat Caves, especially if hikers take the time to explore several caves.
We brought webbing, a carabiner, and a 50 foot rope to make descents safer. We wore helmets since it easy to bash your skull in dark caves. We used headlamps and some people wore gloves. There is a potential for an injury in the caves so it is with some reluctance that we provide information on the cave system. If you go, be well prepared and exercise a lot of caution. We will likely return to the area again, since we have heard there is another entrance not in the main group that can be explored. We know where to look, but there are no easy finds in this rugged and challenging area.