After a 40-foot rappel and roughly five minutes spent on my stomach crawling through a narrow cavern, I was given a choice: continue down the path I was headed or turn left to loop around. The left loop was designed to be challenging, only about a foot and half between the floor and the ceiling with a 90 degree left hand turn a few feet in. Because I’m generally up for a challenge, I had to go for it.
***Please call CityRock before planning your visit. Recent construction has impacted when this cave is open. There is no longer a rappel entrance.***
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Using my forearms, I pulled myself into the tight space, oddly shaped rock formations poking me from every direction making it even more difficult to move as the space seemed to shrink as I moved through. Within a matter of moments, after a few attempts to twist my shoulders and twerk my hips to gain more freedom, I was stuck. Immediately, my muscles began to tense up. Moving became even harder than before, as my struggle seemed to pull the crawl space in closer around me. I started to overheat.
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It was then that I reminded myself that I was under a climbing gym. Even though the area around me made it seem as if I was hundreds of feet beneath the crust of the earth, I was in fact only a few feet beneath a bouldering wall, surrounded by emergency exits and being filmed by several night vision cameras. But boy, did it feel real—Down to the man-made formations and the trickling sounds of water that are included in the experience to help explain how the “cave” came to be in the first place.
I wiggled backwards in very small movements until my body was finally free. With the advice of a man named Dave, I tried to navigate the tight space again. As directed, I dropped one arm to my side and with a twist, I pushed through successfully, covered in a thin layer of sweat, but relieved to not have rough walls touching me on every side.
Unless you’re a rock climber that frequents CityROCK, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard about the man-made cave beneath it. It’s the brainchild of a rad dude named Dave Jackson. He designed this series of narrow tunnels to give those interested in caving a chance to learn more about how to cave properly without damaging the formations around them. It was also built with cave rescue training in mind, providing a controlled environment for practice hours prior to the real deal.
One of the coolest aspects of this experience is that the space is all monitored by a sophisticated scoring system. With various trigger points around the cave built to look like fragile formations, animals, and more, participants are scored on their ability to avoid causing “damage.” While these formations are mostly made of steel, thus relatively invincible, they allow those interested in caving to learn how to navigate around a tunnel in the safest, least intrusive way possible. And what if you hit one of the objects? Lights illuminate the cavern and a voice lets you know what you destroyed. On top of that, a computer that runs the scoring system takes note, keeping track of your performance.
As a very cool and unique attraction in downtown Colorado Springs, the man-made cave at CityROCK allowed me to experience something I’ve always been scared to try, all in a risk free environment. It allows you to feel the claustrophobic panic that comes with getting stuck while it also gives you the freedom to learn how to correct yourself without much risk. If you’ve been interested in exploring a real cave or even just curious what caving is like, this is one experience that comes with a strong recommendation from the OutThere Colorado team.
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