Rappelling down a seven-storey high underground waterfall, and navigating small, dark spaces are all in a day’s work for Myles Fullmer, Lead Guide/Instructor with Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park & Outdoor Centre located on Vancouver Island.
With a degree in eco-tourism and outdoor leadership from Mount Royal University in Calgary, Fullmer always knew that a career in outdoor adventure would be right up his alley. So when an opportunity to work at Horne Lake Caves came up, it wasn’t long before he left the prairies, bound for the far “left coast” of Canada.
To be a cave guide, safety is paramount, and specific training and certifications are required depending on the type of tour being led. Offered through his employer, Fullmer passed all of the certifications needed to lead the horizontal, and more challenging vertical tours at Horne Lake Caves. In addition, he completed the BC Cave Rescue training programs, and has wilderness first aid training.
“Sometimes you have an entire group that doesn’t speak English, or kids who want to climb everything, and I need to be very diligent to keep people safe, and ensure they are not damaging formations in the cave,” comments Fullmer.
Over the past five years, he has climbed the ladder of success with Horne Lake Caves, moving up to his current role of Lead Guide/Instructor which includes hiring and mentoring new staff. Fullmer partially attributes his success to perseverance. “It’s seasonal work that typically runs from the end of April until September. In the winter, things slow down, so I find different odd jobs,” says Fullmer. “But each year I kept going back, and moved up from horizontal guide to vertical guide. This job never grows old to me – the groups and the people are always new. It’s a very satisfying, noble line of work, and I consider myself a professional caver.”
A number of different tours are offered at the park, from family-friendly to more extreme, adventures. “On the longer tours, we rappel down a 70-foot waterfall in a cave,” says Fullmer. “You really get to know people well in that time and part of the job is helping people face their fears whether it be bugs, heights, etc. It challenges people to push themselves, and I am there teaching along the way why caves are nothing to be scared of.”
Fullmer acknowledges that having a physically demanding job can also present challenges. At one time he suffered a broken femur, and while the injury didn’t happen on the job, it affected his ability to work. While he did eventually recover, he admits it was a scary time that made him think what if he couldn’t lead tours due to an injury. From this experience, he realized that his education also taught him the business and management side of tourism, which is an area he looks to develop further moving forward in his career.
Fullmer points out that the tours are also much more than just caves. “A big part of the job is nature interpretation. There are trails to explore, where we get all kinds of flowers, mushrooms and more,” comments Fullmer, a strong advocate for protecting the fragile eco-systems and caves. “Adventure tourism is very satisfying – I get paid to play. It’s therapeutic for yourself, and for the guests. It really is a life-changing experience.”