09.25.2010

092510 SEC Connection

A few of us had a monumental day on Sept. 25, 2010 . . . connecting Shoveleater Cave to Hellhole!!!!
Pictured (from left) are Yuri Schwartz, Tommy Shifflett (who helped this one time) and Victor Ursu.
A huge block of cheese was taken from the 2007 Camp to the surface where everyone dug into it to celebrate. I was fortunate enough to be the fourth person through the Torpedo Tube to access HH.

09.11.2010

MDC
Here Heather Jordan looks at the awesome formations in the Memorial Day Cave’s Starlight Passage.

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.

The numbers:
22 stations
731.2 feet of survey
16 hours underground

08.21.2010

McClung's Cave
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!

Below is Jeremiah in the Glacier Room.
McClung's Cave

08.14.2010

MDC 081410 LAE & LAF pg3
Memorial Day Cave Trip Report – LAE & LAF survey
by Nikki Fox

We met for breakfast at the Gateway to greet at least 20 people who were there caving for the weekend. After a hardy breakfast, and Chris’ usual peanut butter pie, Aaron Moses and Abby Hohn joined Chris Coates and I for a day trip into MDC.

Our first destination was to rebolt and survey the Columbia Canyon connection to the LAC passage from the month before. Aaron went up first and made some redirects and rebelays. Abby and Chris started on finding an existing CC station to tie our survey into. They found one above the watering hole labeled X31. We started from there and designated our survey LAE. The drop into CC totaled 72 feet.

Aaron did an awesome job rebolting the traverse across the tight vertical crack of the connection!

Abby, Chris and I surveyed the very muddy connector room and tied it into the LAC12 station. Aaron left us to retrieve the rest of his rope left in Nebraska Canyon the month before. A handline is needed from LAC12 down the sloppy slope to the bottom of the connector room.

We then met up in the Bison Room for some lunch and to attack our next lead. We continued surveying the crawl that lead into the Bison Room. There was a TON of air flowing down the passage, which was trending northwest, into a pit. Aaron worked again on bolting the pit while the rest of us tied in the LAF survey to LAB1 station. (I know the powers that be on the MCD project like to keep one designation for the day, but with so many leads and so many different passages going all directions; it gets so confusing referencing a certain part of the cave without switching designations. Sorry, but for our sanity, this must be done.)

We dropped and surveyed the pit, which ended up being a 57-foot drop. At the bottom we surveyed the surrounding passages and stopped at a tight crawl where all the air was going in. Aaron named the pit Fasten Your Seatbelts.

Note: The 9.5 mm New England rope used on the connector drop will not last that long if heavily used. It should have a watchful eye on it at all times.

The numbers:
21 stations
478 feet of survey
1 drop of 57 feet
1 drop of 72 feet
16 hours underground
11 bolts/hangers/biners used

08.07.2010

Sawmill Well
Chris and I visited TAG, with our good friend Aaron Moses. Here is the view from the bottom of the 155-foot open-air pit named Sawmill Well.

Solution Rift
After bouncing the pit a couple of times, we did the pull-down trip in Solution Rift. Rappels (in order) are: 24, 18, 30, 23, 167 (Confederate Well), 31 and 36 feet.

We saw a bunch of cave critters!!!
Solution Rift

07.24.2010

072410 MDC LAD3
Memorial Day Cave Trip Report – LAD Survey
by Nikki Fox

On Saturday morning Abby Hohn, Aaron Moses, Peter Penczer and Pete Johnson joined Chris Coates and I for breakfast at the Gateway. It was an off weekend MDC trip lined up for us since we missed the normal GVKS weekend. We ate and then proceeded to the parking area where we suited up and got underground a little after 10 a.m.

Aaron and PeteJ went in first and the plan was to meet them at the window into Nebraska Canyon, where they would be bolting the drop. We signed the note from Harman’s crew, which was at the mouse hole, to ensure that all crews exited before locking the entrance. The rest of us went in at a steady pace, stopping to shoot video as PeteP saw fit.

We made the long crawl, with me showing PeteP where all the little pits were in the passage and made it to the Bison Room with much joy. Standing room is amazing! (However, I must note that the crawl is much like the Puppet Buster, it gets easier the more you do it.)

PeteP immediately started walking around, checking out the booming passages. He was in amazement and rather excited. Abby and I sat down and had a snack while Chris went to see where Aaron and PeteJ were. PeteP went to check out the LAC passage. Upon his return he claimed it was the prettiest passage of MDC! We packed up and decided to head to the window to see how the bolting was going.

When we arrived, Aaron was about half way through setting the bolts for the drop. We used Aaron’s 240-foot rope for the rigging. Chris was first to go down, then Abby. We started at LAB13 to tie in the survey. Chris had to make a station about 15 feet down due to a ledge in the drop. The drop is about 35 feet total, much shorter than we suspected.

Once we were down in Nebraska Canyon, we found out why we were duped. You rappel onto a breakdown pile that has a mud slope flowing into it from the left (the northwest). The right passage, which trends to the southeast, continues down the huge mud slope. Chris and Aaron both went down the slope to check it out on different occasions. They each went about 100 feet before deciding to turn back in fear of not being able to get back up the slope without the need of a hand line or carved steps. Aaron cut the remainder of the rope and left is stashed in the new section.

We pushed the northeast (up the slope). NC is much like the CC passage we have seen before, about 20-50 feet wide with a high ceiling, which varied from 70-90 feet. There was a vertical mud wall that Chris spent a lot of time carving out steps for us to climb up. Once up, the passage continued to the height of the ceiling and got thinner and was full of breakdown and mud.

In this upper section, there was a small space in a formation cluster in the ceiling that PeteJ noticed. He convinced Aaron to try to climb through the small hole. Aaron tried, but could not fit his chest through. Next it was PeteJ’s turn. He made it though only to find that it followed the passage the way we were going and then choked out in about 10 feet.

At the end of the upper passage (LAD10) the ceiling gave way to a little drainage dome about 30 feet high. This is a promising lead! At this point in the trip, it was pushing 8 p.m., and people were wanting to head back out. So the Petes headed out together. PeteJ took out Aaron’s extra bit, his wrench and hammer.

Aaron, Abby, Chris and I went last, with me making some final notes to the book. Aaron wanted to see the LAC passage to see if it needed some holes drilled for future bolting. Upon pushing the passage, Aaron and Chris found a connection to CC, just like Aaron suspected!

We decided to go that way out, instead of going through the long, grueling crawl. Aaron had to bolt across a vertical crack without tightening the bolts. After the crack, which turned out to be quite treacherous even with the help of a traverse, you were atop CC. I estimate the bottom of this rappel is about 200 feet east from the little stream before you get to Harman’s bolt climb.

We did not survey the connection, due to the lateness. It took considerable more time going out, with most of us being really tired. I cannot wait to see the video that PeteP shot during the trip. Also, on a side note: My new Crawdaddies from IMO are awesome…. No more swollen knees for me!

The numbers:
10 stations
322.5 feet of survey
1 drop of 35 feet
1 drop unknown feet
17 hours underground

07.17.2010

Cass Cave
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.

Here Pete stands in the Solstice Skyway passage.
Cass Cave

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!
”

Cass Cave

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.