Meghan lights a massive flowstone wall in Cove Creek during a trip into Maxwelton Sink Cave. It was the first tourist trip allowed into the project cave since the WVCC closed it for White-Nose Syndrome. It was led by Gordon Cole and Larry Fisher.
A rare photo of me . . . here I am sketching the passage during a survey trip with only Chris and I in MDC. We got 301 feet of crawling and stooping passage with LAA (Left Along Again) survey with 11 stations on a 15-hour trip.
Memorial Day Cave Trip Report
by Nikki Fox
Chris Coates and I meet the crew for breakfast Saturday morning at the Gateway for a hearty meal before heading underground. Our plan was to continue the survey on the other side of Harman’s Dig at the western end of Columbia Canyon. Our venture was almost cut short, however. When driving up to the cave, a gate was over the road next to the quarantine notice. We went back to the fieldhouse to see what the protocol was for such a closing of the area. Miles had us take him to the Ruddle’s to see was happening. It turned out they had the cows out in the fields around the chicken houses and had the gate down to keep them in. So we parked and got underground around around 10 a.m., without too much delay.
We made it all the way up to where we left off at FIS7 station in 3 hours. We brought 200 feet of 3/8 inch New England rope with us to dedicate to the area for the small pit we found the month earlier. We left it in some of the “larger” passage in the FIS survey.
Upon reaching the small room with several leads, we decided to check out the passage that went straight, which was along the same level. It was crawling for a while and the passage gradually became smaller. Eventually it branched into a Y with both leads being very small. The left one was too small for a person. The right one was slightly bigger, which was a passage fit for very tiny people, with air flow coming out of it. We did not survey this passage and decided to check out the high lead, which was back in the small room. This went to a beautifully decorated crawling passage with a couple of holes in the floor that looked down into the small room. So we decided to take photos and survey it with the LAA (Left Along Again) survey. (A joke Chris & I have going since last month Dave Riggs was going to come with us, but left word with the waitress at the Gateway Restaurant that he wasn’t going to be joining us. And this month Tim Bilezikian was originally going to come with us for a third person, and then decided not to that morning.)
Again, this passage was coated in a thick, sticky mud and was mostly crawling with a few places to sit or stand up. One of the highlights of this passage was the discovery of animal tracks! We think the critter was a rat. In the passage we surveyed, there was a small pool of water with sunken tracks and scratch marks of the rat, probably struggling getting a drink of water. Also in this area were straight lines with really small tracks. I think these were from a salamander. We made sure to get photos of the area before we trampled the area with out footprints. (See below.)
We stopped surveying when the passage started getting smaller and the floor more rocky. I could feel my knees becoming like raw hamburger. We headed back to the small room where we started the survey and decided to check out the last unknown lead before heading out. There were two small holes in the floor that headed west. Upon crawling down, you were meet with beautiful formations and soda straws. It ended after about 10 feet of crawling to a crack in the floor and another small pit. This one looks a lot more promising than the one we found last month!
Another exciting find was a slot in the floor of a section that was between LAA5 and LAA6. We tossed in several small rocks to see how far down it went. We heard the rocks bouncing off the walls on average for 12 seconds. A possible way to the other side of CC?
The air flow of the whole area was more than last month. We got 11 stations and 301 feet of survey. The passage trended northwest. We will be back for more in June, hopefully equipped with better knee pads!
Memorial Day Cave Trip Report
by Chris Coates
Nikki Fox and I continued our dig/survey at the western end of Columbia Canyon off of John Harman’s dig/bolt climb. We surveyed 8 stations and gained about 235 feet of new passage in the FIS (see below) Survey.
The entire area is an extremely slimy muddy passage. We surveyed though the snug, sticky crawl. We didn’t notice any air flow until we where in the middle of the small crawl, where you could feel a cool breeze going by you. Once through, we surveyed until we reached the first intersection. We decided to bear left, where I went last time, which was the bigger of the two ways to go.
The passage got bigger, with walking and stooping. We made our way to a very small, highly decorated room that had several small crawling leads on multiple levels. The main passage continued straight ahead and went back to a crawl. At this point, there were several pretty formations decorating the area with only slight amounts of air movement, which was blowing out of the dig. Overwhelmed with all the crawling leads, we couldn’t decide which way to go, so decided to go back to the first intersection and survey the right-hand passage.
Once there, we made one shot to a tight hole in the passage. Once I went thought it, I was hanging over at a pit. The sides of the pit are fairly smooth and has no mud on it, unlike everything else in the crawling passage. You cannot see the bottom while looking into the man-sized pit without possibly falling into it. We could not tell from the top if there was any passage that connected to a lower level or passage. We didn’t have any rope with us so we decided to head out and come back next month with some rope.