06.25.2010

Colorado River Campsite
We checked for an open campsite for the night at Arches . . . they didn’t have one. So we found this outside the park along the Colorado River. Yeah, there were a lot of mosquitos.

But we were camped right next to some awesome petroglyphs!
Colorado Petroglyphs

Arches National Park, Day II
Arches National Park
Chris and I spent the entire day hiking the rest of the trails in the park to see all the obscure arches in Arches National Park. Above is me standing in an unnamed arch we found while hiking to Sand Dune Arch.

Arches National Park
Some pretty rippled sand.

Arches National Park
A portait of the two of us at Broken Arch.

Arches National Park
Me being a goober while hiking to Double O Arch.

06.24.2010

Arches National Park
We have arrived at Arches National Park!

Unfortunately this morning, after we broke down camp in Colorado and drove down the mountain back into cell service, we got a bad call. Our rappelling and climbing El Capitan Expedition had been cancelled by the park service. Too many details of what went wrong. So . . . . as the only ones driving across county for it, we find out about it half way into our drive. We decided to stop by Arches for a couple of days.

Below is Balanced Rock.
Arches National Park

This is the famous Delicate Arch near sunset and an almost full moon!
Arches National Park

06.23.2010

White River Camping
Waking up in the morning at our beautiful campsite an Aspen grove in White River National Forest, elevation about 10,000 feet. The plan . . . to spend several days up at high elevation — sleeping, hiking, caving — to get acclimated to it. So when we arrive in Yosemite, at 7,500 feet, it won’t kick our asses nearly as bad.

Our view from a day hike.
White River Camping

And then we got to go caving again with Ken Headrick. He meet up with us after work and took us into Groaning Cave, Colorado’s longest cave at 10 miles, for a short 2.5-hour trip.
Groaning Cave

Groaning Cave
Another photo of Ken.

And the sexy entrance!!
Groaning Cave

06.22.2010

Glenwood Caverns
Ken Headrick stands next some beautiful bacon in the historic Fairy Cave, which is now called Glenwood Caverns, in Colorado.

And some beautiful aragonite formations found in the cave.
Glenwood Caverns

06.21.2010

Nebraska Driving
A storm seen from the flatlands of my home state: Nebraska. On the road again driving to caver’s Ken and Tracy Headrick’s home in Colorado.

Getting closer to the Western Range!
Colorado Driving

06.20.2010

Leaving Dad's
A quick pic with my Dad on Father’s Day and stepmom, Judy, at their Iowa home before hitting the road again. The day before, we drove the 15 hours straight and arrived in the evening to a feast of homemade pizza!

We arrived in Nebraska, at my Mom’s and stepdad, Tim, house several hours later and had another barbecue feast there with my sister and her kids too!
Barbaque

06.18.2010

Packed Car
My Nissan Sentra packed to the gills with camping, backpacking, rappelling and new caving gear, with a new Thule box on top, ready for our El Capitan Expedition adventure! We’re driving across the country, to California, with a few stops along the way to see my family members.

Let the road trip commence!

06.12.2010

Memorial Day Cave
Chris takes a shot during our breakout in MDC . . . notice how much air is blowing the station! With Abby Hohn, Chris and I we surveyed 27 stations and 1,140 feet of passage in an 15 hour trip.

Memorial Day Cave Trip Report
LAB and LAC survey
by Nikki Fox

Chris Coates and I arrived at the Gateway Saturday morning to join about 20 others for a hearty breakfast. There were a couple of other day crews for MCD there and it was nice to see faces that normally go on camp trips. Abby Hohn volunteered to join us and we were exited to have a three-person survey trip to our lead for the first time. It was also Abby’s first trip into MDC. And boy, was she in for a awesome trip!

We drove up to the farm and got dressed. Our team was the first underground at 10:30 a.m. The second team, which consisted of Pete, Aaron, Pete and Gayle caught up with us at the rigged climb downs before the 50-foot drop. As you could guess, there was a little backup in the Puppet Buster for the drop into Columbia Canyon. I must note here that Abby said several times during the trip “I love this cave,” even during the PB the first time. 

When our team was down, we boogied onto our lead. Once we made it to our last station, LAA 11, I handed out the survey gear and got comfortable to start sketching with the LAB survey. Chris started to do some recon for the next station when he found an amazing discovery! There was a small slit in the rock above. Crawling a few feet further, it broke open big enough for a person to fit through! This was the kind of passage we have been hoping for since working on the lead since April . . . passage that could possibly connect with the other side of the mud-choked western end of Columbia Canyon. 

When Chris climbed into the room above he hollered, “I see petroglyphs!” Come to find out there were not man-made works of art on the cave walls, but a white blob of calcite that looks like a bison on the wall. We referred to the breakout room as the “Bison Room” all day. 

Once we made our shots into the room, we left our packs to check out the booming passage before us. After walking around for a while, we decided which passages to survey. We made one shot to the left passage, which was trending northwest, and then headed north on the right-hand passage from the Bison Room. 

We got to the first intersection (at station LAB 5) in one 83-foot shot from the Bison Room. Here there were four ways to go: a small crack in the floor that connected with the left-hand passage from the Bison Room (it was not tied into the survey, but Abby tried to get through the crack), a high lead to the northwest only accessible by a bolt climb, an interesting keyhole-like small passage sloping downward continuing north and the obvious borehole continuance to the southeast. 

We chose to survey down the smaller passage, being it was heading the direction we wanted to go — down. It went down and down until it choked out with mud at LAB 9. We think this site would be a good candidate for a dig in the future due to the strong air sucking into the crack. We left three leads in this area and continued to survey straight. The passage became smaller. So small, that in fact we had a tight crawl to access the next room. This room was highly decorated with soda straws and helictites. 

Upon exploring this room more, we made the greatest discovery of the trip. There was a window in the north wall about 7 feet from the floor (near LAB 13). We had to help each other up the wall to see into the blackness . . . it was the connection to the other side of Columbia Canyon! When in the window, you were looking down into the typical CC passage: narrow and deep (at least 80 feet to the floor). After discussing this find for the past couple of days, Chris and I have settled on the name of Nebraska Canyon for several reasons, but mainly for honoring my home state known for its infinite flatness. 

We surveyed the rest of the passage and then headed back to the first intersection room to continue following the main passage trending southeast. From here we chose to change our station designations from LAB to LAC. The passage was about 15-20 feet wide and averaged about 15 feet tall. After a several shots we came up a beautiful formation between LAC 3 and 4. A three-foot tall stalagmite towered in the middle of a turn, frozen in time, all alone. A little over 100 feet more of surveyed passage and we came to a huge flowstone column that was blocking most of the passage. This feature was very unlike the rest of the passage and easily the largest speleothem we encountered. 

Around the next bend in the borehole were more helictites and a little pool of water coated in thin calcite sheets floating on the water. The pool was extremely shallow, probably no more than an inch. From this point, the passage continued to become more decorated. Stalactites, helictites and flowstone became more common. Pretty soon the passage gave way (around station LAC 9) to a flowstone-covered floor at which the dirt underneath was washed away in places. The floor protested, cracked and moaned at our weight. There were some places that simply broke underneath our footsteps. 

About 555 feet into the LAC survey down this lazily-meandering passage we found a large cluster of formations taking up the width of the passage. I stopped here to document it with my camera between data recordings. We ended the survey around 9 p.m. after the passage made an abrupt downward turn. We took one more shot down a slope that Chris was the only one of us to go down. He described it as “basically where the mud stops and clean rock with white formations start.” 

“The area is wet and slippery, fragile and loose with rock. I think it is the start of a short well or dome. I could not get close enough to the edge to look over the bottom edge without a hand line to keep Nikki from getting too nervous that I may fall in. It doesn’t sound very deep and the passage seems to hang a 90 degree right turn before the drop off, but I could not tell for sure. There is also a consistent dripping noise coming from this area.” 

Generally speaking, in all of the upper levels the floor was mud covered. There was very little breakdown in the passages. We did notice airflow in this upper section. At one station, the tape was gently waiving around in the air (LAB 5). 

We took about 3.5 hours going out and did not run into anyone else along the way. Abby did not share the same enthusiasm and love for the PB when heading out as she did when trekking into the cave. We arrived back at the filed house to awaken Pete Penczer and share the discovered loot of our trip with everyone. 

Chris and I will be unable to make the normal GVKS weekend in July due to our El Cap expedition. But we plan on returning as soon as possible to rig and drop into Nebraska Canyon and survey our left leads. 

The numbers:
15 hour trip
27 stations
1,140 feet of survey
94.1 longest shot 

Memorial Day Cave
The “bison” on the wall that Chris saw.

Memorial Day Cave
Here Chris gives Abby a lift to look into the massive canyon of darkness.

06.05.2010

Wild Oak Backpacking
So Chris and I did a 15-mile backpacking trip on the Wild Oak trail in the George Washington National Forest. It was past of training for our upcoming El Capitan Expedition in Yosemite. But after we got to our camping spot with 4 hours of light left, we said fuck it and hiked out. Pizza and beer called us.

Wild Oak Backpacking