Memorial Day Cave Trip Report – the LAG Survey
by Nikki Fox
We met for the traditional breakfast at the Gateway to meet a rather small crowd, compared to the previous month. Chris and I met up with our team — Kurt Waldron and Heather Jordan. It was both their first time into MDC. We preceded to the cave and got underground around 10:30 a.m.
We made it to the western upper level by the new route Aaron rigged the month before: the CC connection drop. First order of business was to tie a handline on the very muddy slope in the LAC/CC connection room. I tied a couple of foot loops in the bottom so I could get on the slope without aid. We stopped for lunch at the Bison Room before starting our survey. Our plan was to survey the left borehole passage from the Bison Room since we were sans drill.
With our group of four, Chris remained on backsight the whole time as Kurt and Heather switched on and off on foresight. Heather helped me with measurements for profiles, which was nice for a change.
We found the small holes in the floor that Abby tried to connect to LAB5 in June. It was a small room we surveyed at LAG5. Between stations LAG2 and LAG3 there was a high lead that went southeast. I had a hunch that it would connect to the same high lead that looked like a bolt climb from the LAB5 room when we first discovered the big passages. I sent Heather to the LAB5 room and we made a voice and light connection.
We continued the survey from LAG2, which had sister beautiful domes that I measured at 50 and 70 feet tall. We went under a natural bridge from LAG6 to LAG7. In this next room there was a cluster of soda straws and stalagmites in one corner. Around the bend it got small and our hopes were dwindled with a small crawl. But Chris found that it opened up again into nice strolling passage.
Around LAG11 there was a hand-sized hole in the floor on the left. Chris threw a rock in and it went down for quite a ways. At the next station, LAG12, there was a passage trending to the northwest. We did not push it. As we went further, the floor was getting quite muddy.
After LAG13 the passage kept trending west. Between LAG15 and LAG16 there was a rather large mud slope, which will need some steps carved if there is much more traffic, with a huge passage going northwest. We left it and continued straight. From here the passage changed. There were white calcite veins on the ceiling, everywhere. Tiny needles also covered the floor. Station LAG17 was made on some beautiful stalactites. We named this passage the Starlight Passage as the walls seemed to twinkle with out headlamps.
At station LAG19 there was a left stooping lead going south. Chris and Kurt checked out this lead when I was taking photos one time. We did not survey it. After LAG20, there was another lead, going north, that we did not check out as well. At LAG21, another lead. This time it was crawling, not walking or stooping.
Between stations LAG21 and LAG22 the passage started to get really decorated with soda straws and helacites. And then the formation mother load: a beautiful stalactite over four feet long almost touching it’s sister stalagmite. I brought a couple of flashes and a few bulbs with me this trip (a new big pack = more room for stuff like photo gear). Heather was gracious enough to pose for some photos. The images from this trip are already posted on the GVKS site.
It was getting late, around 9:30 p.m. So we all looked at the decorated passage for another 30 feet or so and I took a bunch of photos. We retreated to the Bison Room to have a snack and then proceeded to head out around 10:30.
I think that Pete Penzer will have to visit the Starlight Passage and judge for himself if it’s the prettiest passage of MDC or not.
731.2 feet of survey
16 hours underground
A weekend of caving with my friends Holly Marcus and Jeremiah Knupp. Chris and I took them to West Virginia’s Greenbrier County. This day we did Lightner’s Entrance to McClung’s Cave. Holly stands next to some of the coolest formations I’ve seen . . . they’re melting off of the shelf!
John Harman makes his way across a horizontal traverse, about 100 feet up in the air, to access Solstice Skyway in Cass Cave during a survey trip. Our team: Bob Zimmerman sketched, I recorded numbers, John Harman and Pete Johnson ran the instruments. It was a 15 hour trip.
As per Harman’s trip report —
“We quickly surveyed to a 15-foot climb up over a flowstone waterfall. I easily free climbed the drop and rigged a piece of Pete’s webbing to aid the ascent and to make the descent easier on the way out. Just after the climb there was another 10-foot waterfall climb. Pete took an alternate route around a huge chockstone while I climbed it. We met up on the other side and determined that my route was easier so we headed back down and surveyed to the top of the climb.
The passage here was floored with large sandstone cobbles. Just after the climb, the passage split and we debated on which way to go. Bob suggested we survey the left hand fork that appeared to go to a tight canyon. The canyon ended after only a few shots at SSB15. We retreated and surveyed the right hand passage. This passage was obviously the continuation of the main canyon. The height had decreased to about 8’ but generally remained about 10’ wide. We surveyed up a very slick, gently sloping mud floor that we dubbed the Ice Rink. Just after the Ice Rink, the passage split again and again, we surveyed the left hand fork first. This passage ended after only two shots as sediment choke. There were many beautiful formations and helictites in this area and we even found a double helix stalactite!
Next, we surveyed the right hand lead which jogged around the corner and opened back up into the main stream passage. This yielded two more shots to a 7” bedrock squeeze with great air. Pete was the only one who could fit and he reported scooping 50’ in going passage with several leads. After Pete returned, we decided to call it a day and head back out of the cave.
In total I believe we surveyed about 780’ of wonderful virgin passage! ”
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.
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.
The main survey members look down a shaft that was dug open by West Virginia excavation crews blasting their way through a hill in Grant County, WV. When they found a cave, the site manager gave Bob Bennett a call to see what could be done about possibly checking out and surveying the cave to see where it went underground . . . a.k.a., to see if it would cause problems with building the highway later on.
So Bob made some calls and got together a survey team, which included me.
An article was written about our endeavors, you can read it here.
Scherr Crystal Cave Trip Report
by Chris Coates & Bob Bennett
The cave is developed near the top of a hill on New Creek Mountain about 2 miles North of Scherr, WV and about ½ mile east of Route 93. The arrowhead shaped entrance is about 5 feet wide and 9 feet long. The entrance immediately drops about 30 feet to the floor of the Entrance Room. The room is about 20 feet x 20 feet and is about 18 feet high and lowers to about 10 feet high to the back of the room. There is a very large flowstone mound that cascades down from near the ceiling just to the left of a slot. There are a few small formations that are scattered in the room.
Just offset from the entrance is a slot in the floor that drops about 10 feet to a larger room that the WVDOH said was big enough to set a 777 rock truck in. A hand line is helpful to get down the slope & 6 foot drop. There is a lot of breakdown and rubble lying in the slot. Most of the rubble probably came from the entrance area when the entrance was opened up and later stabilized.
The second room is about 20 feet long, 30 feet wide and 20 feet high. The room is shaped at an angle with the north side of the room 15 feet higher than the south side which seems to defy the dip of the bedrock. There is a ledge 10 feet up on the east side of the room with a body-sized hole that leads to the rest of the cave. There are some formations on the upper high side of the room.
Once you squeeze through the hole you are in an area that is profusely decorated with aragonite crystals, frostwork, small bushes and gypsum flowers. The area is almost completely white.
Once you are through this area you are in another large room that again defies the dip of the bedrock. This room is 20 feet high, 20 feet wide and almost 20 feet long. Near the ceiling on the high side of the room is an opening that leads back to the second room. Again the high side of the passage contains formations. From this room is an 8-foot high and 5-foot wide passage that leads to more cave. To the left of the passage is a small shelf that contains many gypsum curls.
Within 10 feet this passage opens up into another room that is 25 feet high, 20 feet wide and 10 feet long. There again are formations near the ceiling of the high side of the room. Also a 10-foot long and 5-foot high passage at that level that leads back into the previous room.
From here the passage starts to trend upward. Within 20 feet there is another room that is 15 feet high, 15 feet wide and 10 feet long. At this point the passage shape seems to conform more to the dip of the bedrock with the higher points of the passage to the south and dipping to the north. At this point the cave is profusely decorated with stalactites, soda straws, columns, carrot shaped stalactites, and flowstone. One soda straw is between 15 to 18 inches long. The whole cave is very colorful but the color at this point becomes mind-boggling! Not only are the speleothems colorful but the bedrock is too! The colors include black, gray, blue, orange, several shades of red & rust colors, yellow, and white. Even the bedrock joins in with black, gray, silver, orange, and yellow. At the low point on the north side of the room is a hole that leads down to the Hidden Room.
There is a small crack in the floor on the left side of the passage. This is a tight hole that looks to go down about 15 feet. Once you go into the hole, you can see that the floor of the passage above is only about 8 inches thick. There is a high passage to access the bottom, or you can just continue down the main crack into the largest part of the room. The room has a sloping wall on the left with lots of loose breakdown and dirt. At the bottom there is a dry dirt covered floor with very textured crumbly walls. On the far side of the room (heading southeast) back on top of the loose breakdown, there is a ledge with a short tight breakdown passage leading back in the direction of the entrance. It eventually pinches out. The depth of this room is 39 feet below the entrance.
Once you are back in the main passage the trend is still up. After about 10 feet you come to a 5-foot climb-up. At the base of the climb is a small slot that leads down to the left toward a second pit.
There is a body sized hole on the left-hand side the floor of the main passage, which is on a slight climb up, toward the end of the cave. After sliding through this hole, being careful to mind the loose rocks all above, you find yourself sitting on a small ledge at the top of a 22-foot pit. The pit is not free hang but a very steep angled wall that requires vertical gear to safely negotiate to the bottom. The walls and floor are roughly textured. The entire time we were down there, there was water dripping from the ceiling and walls. The pit bells out toward the bottom with a small passage disappearing into a very narrow drain in the far wall of the pit (the northwest side). The depth of this pit is 41 feet below the entrance.
Back in the main passage after about 25 feet you come to another heavily decorated area with a very nice column in the middle of the passage. There is flowstone, bacon, soda straws, and stalactites. Most of the formations are to the right-higher side with the shape of the passage conforming to the dip of the bedrock. The passage is about 10 feet high near this point.
After another 10 feet the passage starts to quickly trend upward with the ceiling height about 3 feet. There are a lot of bacon formations in this area with lots of flowstone. Passage shape flattens out here but heads into very thin beds. Lots of slabs occur in this area. The passage pinches out in the thin beds. At this point the cave is 8 feet above the entrance.
The whole cave contains many formations. But several areas are very heavily decorated with just about every type of speleothem. You have to be especially careful as you travel through the cave in many areas.