06.11.2011

MDC
So on our way into Memorial Day Cave, we planed on replacing a rope that was very well worn. I found this core shot in it.

Heather Jordan was with us on the trip and was the first one to rappel down the replacement rope on the 50-footer.
MDC

MDC
Here Chris bolt climbs up the small drop in the Cobble Room. Trip report below.

Memorial Day Cave Trip Report
Bolting Trip
June 11, 2011
by Nikki Fox

Saturday morning Chris Coates and I stopped by Stacy Waggy and Heather Jordan’s house to pick up Heather for our day trip into MDC. After breakfast at the Gateway, we swung by the field-house and dropped off the 1,000 feet of Highline minus the two short pieces we were going to use on the day’s trip. We got underground around 10:30 a.m., and our first goal was to replace the rope on the 50-foot drop before the Puppet Buster. The rope was in rough shape and needed to be retired. We had been keeping an eye on it and had noticed that there was a soft spot a little under half way down the drop that had been gradually getting worse over the last six months.
 
We had cut a 100-foot piece of rope for the job, which ended up being about 10-15 feet short, to replace the drop and traverse line. So we ended up using the current traverse line and replacing the main rope. We set aside the bad end of the rope on the ledge near the drop and I took some photos of the core peaking through the sheath in the soft spot. Next month, I plan on bringing the rope out so we can put it on the wall in the fieldhouse with the other bad ropes. 
 
We then continued on to our lead in Ripple Way at a leisurely pace. The 400-foot crawl at the bottom of Fasten Your Seatbelts Pit was rather difficult with our muddy vertical gear and bolting items. We stopped to refill our water bottles at the watering hole along the way, which was flowing nicely this month. 
 
After arriving at our lead Chris started his aid climb in the Cobble Room (LAL23) around 4 p.m. Once up, he rigged the short drop with the new 40-foot piece of rope and cleaned the route. Then I climbed first up to the passage and the rest followed. We caved for about 50 feet, which was trending upward in the curving passage until it got tighter. There were both muddy and clean-washed areas in the passage along with some air flow sucking into the cave. I took some photos and since I was not feeling very well and Heather was tired, we decided to wait until next month to survey and push the passage, with small thoughts in our minds. 
 
The numbers:
No survey stations
16 hours underground
7 bolts (personal gear) 
4 hangers (personal gear) 
3 quick links (personal gear) 
40 ft. 11mm rope (group gear)
100 ft. 11mm rope (group gear)
 

05.29.2011

Painted River Rock
On the final day of our Memorial Day TAG trip, we saved the hardest for last . . . a multi-drop cave with several 100-fotters called Painted River Rock. Here Chris climbs the first drop at 140 feet.

05.28.2011

Halley's Hole
Day two at Jacobs Mountain Preserve. Brad finds it hard to leave the luxury of his bed.

And Aaron and Chris get distracted easily during breakfast.
Halley's Hole

Williams Saltpeter Cave
Brad stands at the bottom of Halley’s Hole, a 174-footer.

Williams Saltpeter Cave
Aaron lights up the bottom of Williams Saltpeter Cave (140 foot rappel).

05.14.2011

MDC
Terry McClanathan and Brian Young joined us in Memorial Day Cave, continuing the survey of Ripple Way.

Memorial Day Cave Trip Report
Mapping Leads in Ripple Way
May 14, 2011
LAL survey
by Nikki Fox

Chris Coates and I arrived at the Gateway for breakfast with a newcomer to the valley, Brian Young. Brian, a recent graduate from JMU, had never project caved. We met up with Terry McClanathan, our fourth in the team, at the fieldhouse. We went to the parking area where Terry got his usual head start into the cave. The rest of us followed, a little after 10 a.m. We got a little backed up in the Puppet Buster and again at the connection climb, but made it to our main lead in Ripple Way a little over 3.5 hours. 

The first thing I noticed on our way in was the silence in the passage, which was loud last month with the rushing of tiny streams in Ripple Way. I was planning on refilling my bottle during the day and was beginning to become concerned with the lack of running water. Even near station LAK37, where Aaron and Terry refilled at the waterhole last month, it was dry.

Nonetheless, our first objective was to check the water level at the sump (LAK54). It was just as full, if not more. Which perplexed me since the water levels in the passage were obviously lower this month. We then traveled back to our first juicy lead: a northeast passage downhill at LAK47. Chris was on backsight again, Brian was on frontsight, Terry was sketching cross sections and book and I was concentrating on the main sketching. It took several shots before Brian got the hang of it, but once he did, we were good to go. 

We made our way down the sandy hill, and then upwards again. It was small passage, we were sitting down most of the time. Between LAL5 and LAL6, we figured out that we were below the two small holes in floor at LAK41. “Rats!” I said, having two fun leads taken off the list to push in the future. Further up the passage we ran into a small standing pool of water (LAL9) with some nice formations. The passage went to a crawl through some sloppy mud and then we popped out into the Ripple Way! We tied in LAL11 into LAK39. In our 300-foot loop in a lower level, we had managed to take off three promising leads. 

We then decided to go back and survey near the waterhole area. I was out of water, so while the others were eating lunch, I pushed my way through a small crack (going northwest) filled with tiny, grabby popcorn towards the sound of running water. I found a nice room with a 3-foot-deep pool being fed by a gush of water coming down a well. The water continued east down a small passage. 

Upon my return, we packed up and started our second part of the survey for the day (LA12) from station LAK36. We followed a high crawling lead going north off the Ripple Way. It was there that Terry said to Brian, “Just be a man and shoot it,” after Brian complained about something. It was hilarious! After we proceeded forward in the passage, it quickly became apparent, with all the holes in the floor, that we were above the waterhole. We were about 20 feet above the floor. The area was covered in slick mud and several rocks fell below as we passed through the upper level. After three stations we were on the other side (LAL15), back safe and sound on solid floor. 

We followed the passage, which was trending upwards, past a nice flowstone area with a large column (LAL16) and into a room (LAL 17). From here the passage turned southwest, following a floor channel with running water. This passage must have been gushing last month, to offer up a nice place to refill water down at the watering hole. Around station LAL21 the passage ceiling was getting higher, like a little canyon. At LAL23 we popped into a nice cobbled room. I’m just going to refer to this room as the Cobble Room. We shot down a smaller passage, which dead ended (LAL24). To the east, we could see another upper level continuing to go. This would require a short bolt climb, as it was only about 20 feet above the floor. We left another lead, it was at the top of the Cobble Room, going west. It appeared to have a lot of breakdown in the crawl. We then traveled back to the waterhole and surveyed the lower level, tying it into LAK37 and LAL14 above. 

We made our way out of the cave, with Terry leading the way. It took us a little over 4 hours to exit the cave. We changed in the rainy night and made our way back to the fieldhouse for some food and sleep. And yes, we did turn in a waiver, Miles. I believe that Brian had a great time and will return to the Valley. 

The numbers:
26 stations
635.1 feet of survey 
16 hours underground

MDC
Here Brian Young reads instruments while taking a shot during the survey.

04.29.2011

Spring VAR
Chris attempts to rig Odey’s Pit entrance to Cassell Cave after a massive rain storm a few days earlier. As you can see, there’s still a bunch of water entering the cave entrance. I believe I said there was “No fucking way” I was going down there!! Being Chris (stubborn), he finally gave up after the water pounded the breath out of him in the crawls to get to the rig point. Insane shit.

04.09.2011

MDC
Had a fabulous trip into Memorial Day Cave trip with Chris Coates, Aaron Moses and Terry McClanathan!!
We continued the survey of borehole we found at the bottom of Fasten Your Seatbelts Pit. We spent 16.5 hours underground and surveyed nearly 2,200 feet of passage! Above is Aaron standing the the borehole we named Ripple Way.

Below is Terry doing the cross sections.
MDC

MDC
Here Terry comes out of a side lead.

MDC
And a photo of the sand that inspired the passage name — Ripple Way.

Memorial Day Cave Trip Report
The Push of Ripple Way
April 9, 2011
LAK survey
by Nikki Fox

Chris Coates and I met up with our crew — Aaron Moses and Terry McClanathan — for breakfast at the Gateway. Terry got underground first to get a head start. Chris and I were in next, in around 10 a.m., followed by Aaron. Aaron caught up to us when we were at the 50-foot drop. At the bottom, Aaron passed us to catch up to Terry, who we could hear banging around in the Puppet Buster. 

We all made our way to the top of the connection drop. Aaron took Terry on a little tour of the upper Western Section, including showing the window into Nebraska Canyon and Starlight Passage, which Aaron had never seen himself. At the bottom of Fasten Your Seatbelts Pit, which took us 3.5  hours to get to, we all got rid of all or part of our vertical gear and started the long crawl to the borehole lead Chris and I did last month. 

At LAJ15 we stopped, had a snack and decided who would do what. Chris did his usual duty as frontsight, Aaron did backsight, Terry recorded the data and sketched cross sections while I did the sketching. This provided to be most efficient, allowing us to survey the passage rather quickly. 

There were 8 to 10-inch scallops on the ceiling with iron-colored rings along passage between LAK1 and LAK19. When Chris was setting station LAK8, Terry and I were at station LAK6. Aaron said there was a side passage on the opposite wall, so I crawled up the hole and went around a couple of turns, to see the small crawling passage going uphill with a floor channel in the bottom. It reminded me of the Puppet Buster. So I crawled back and hollered at the boys that we should survey it. Chris was not a fan of leaving the nice borehole. After 4 shots, Chris went a little further and found that it opened up into a small room and then continued in a crawl. We decided to leave the crawl as a lead for another time. Once back in the borehole both Terry and Aaron “bitched” about how aweful the borehole passage was to survey. This joke continued throughout the day.

Back in the main bore, we ran across another floor channel between LAK8 and LAK13. It originated from a tiny hole along the western wall and cut a huge slot in a mud mound. It was around this time the mud started getting a little gewy. After LAK13, there was a visible drainage area on the east wall, under a shelf, with the first collection of gravel we saw in the passage. The passage then constricted to a hands and knees crawl, where there were large sand mounds with wonderful ripple designs. Suddenly, we popped into a 13.5-foot high dome! At the bottom, there was a small crawling passage with cracked, sticky mud on the floor (LAK16). Before we went further, Chris returned to the beginning of our survey to retrieve our packs and I took photos of the mud cracks before it was destroyed by our path. The muddy sump turned out to be 9 to 11-inches tall the whole way and was 45 feet long. 

After the sump, we crawled up a sand bank, again with beautiful ripples, and followed an old water channel up the passage, which started at LAK21 from under a rock pile. The passage from LAJ8 to LAK20 had more sand/mud mounds. It was at LAK19 when I heard a low-frequency pop. I said “It just sounded like something fell in the passage ahead.” Aaron quickly chimed: “No it’s not! That’s the Ruddle crew we’re hearing!” There was much excitement and hurry to push the passage further to see if there was a small crack somewhere in the passage where the Ruddle crew could connect.  

Just around the corner (LAK21) the bore dramatically changed. The floor was covered in muddy breakdown and the walls looked craggy, not the smooth-lined walls with scallops we had grown accustomed to. I do not know much about the kinds of limestone in GV, but I would have to guess that we had entered a new contact layer. 

We surveyed through the breakdown, hearing the familiar low-pitched drilling (from LAK22 to LAK27) we have heard working on the SEC connection dig. At LAK26 I found a standing pool of water. It was not big, and was about 6-inches deep along the western wall. Between LAK26 and LAK27 there was another gravel sump, but this time there was a trickle of water flowing down into it! Once the passage narrowed, to 5-foot tall (LAK 27), I could no longer hear the drill. So I went back, as all the others were ahead at least one station, and tried to determine where the drilling sound was the loudest. It seemed to be around this gravel sump. 

We continued upstream and around LAK28 we started to see formations — lots of sodastraws and stalagmites. We popped into a wet, drippy passage that was decorated with flowstone and drapery. The passage branched off at LAK29. To the right (southwest) was upstream with air blowing. We continued straight (south), following the largest flow of air. After a small crawl (between LAK31 and LAK32) we climbed down into another junction room, accompanied with a small stream. The stream came from a breakdown pile (southwest) in the room, and traveled down the hill to the west. We left both of these leads and pushed forward in a dryer passage with no running water. 

From LAK33 the passage became muddy. At several turns in the passage, we left three small crawling leads and a walking lead with running water near LAK37. It was here that Aaron and Terry refilled their water bottles. Between LAK38 and LAK39 we left a lead going southeast. It looked rather unpleasant — a wet, muddy crawl. Continuing along the passage, a very slick, muddy sloped had to be climbed to reach LAK39. At the top, we encountered another dry stream channel that disappeared down two small holes in the floor (LAK41). Up another small hill, a shelf jutted out of the wall (LAK42) and the passage became a stoop walk, for me. At LAK44 we came to a fabulous natural bridge with more scallops on the ceiling. 

From here the passage had pockets of beautiful formations — mainly sodastraws, stalagmites and stalactites. Near LAK47 there was a very promising passage heading northeast down a slope. It has gobs of air and made me chilly sitting at the intersection. Around LAK51 the passage changed again. We followed a flowstone drain downwards to the end of our borehole. The entire area was covered in gravel and rotten flowstone. We stopped surveying at a water sump, which was 4 feet long, at least 6-inches deep and had at least an inch of air on the other side (LAK54). The good news is that it was blowing massive amounts of air. Our hopes are that this will eventually dry up for us. It was at the end of our survey that we discussed what to call the passage we had just mapped. Terry suggested “Ripple Way” and it stuck. 

A big thanks to Aaron and Terry for joining us on our survey! 
We couldn’t have done this kind of trip with just the two of us. 

Side notes: 
— Aaron seemed to think that the first stream was Ruddle water and the second was from Con. 
— The air did change directions multiple times during the day. 
— Took 4.5 hours to exit the cave from the last station

The numbers:
54 stations
2,171.9 feet of survey (0.4 miles) 
16.5 hours underground

04.02.2011

SEC
Chris and I led a sport trip in Shovel Eater Cave with Mike Broome and Lisa Lorenzin. I think it was their hardest vertical cave they’ve done. But I absolutely love this cave, it’s my favorite! Here are the two of them in the borehole above Germany Well (217 ft).

Below is Chris in the Acoustic Persistence Chamber.
SEC

SEC
Unfortunately, we ran into this little guy in the cave. An Eastern pip covered with White Nose (WNS). I sure hope he makes it to the summer, he’s got a few more weeks to go for the bugs to come out!!