View Full Version : Trip Report A couple of Caving stories

06-16-2007, 08:00 PM
Starroom---stardate 12-30-06

The children have been let loose. After a little over a year and half of caving pretty steadily no senior cavers accompany us this trip. Six of us, most of us have caved together a lot over the past year. One newby. We are going on a difficult trip, and we feel the freedom yet responsibility of the care of the cave, and the safety of ourselves and others.
Time to put our training to work.

The Starroom is reputed to be difficult to access, yet incredibly beautiful and untouched due to the hard to reach area. Supposedly it has been years since anyone has been there, the older cavers mostly not caving anymore, and size wise the entrance rules out all but the relatively small and wiry. And it is tricky to locate, not obvious. We are armed with some sketchy information, a 100 foot rope and 50 foot handline for our trip. We move rapidly through the initial part of the cave, climbing well, and soon are at the destination. The corner of a small room, a lip, raised off the floor, and you peer in a key hole shaped slot down a stone tube, you cannot see beyond a tantalizing 12 feet or so, and another small semi round portal of stone. It is vertical and a slightly rotated. We rig high from the center of the small room, and since I am the "pusher" for going to this room, I put my harness on and decide I will be first to go.
I elect to run the rope thru my pirahna device and let it run freely until I drop thru the ceiling. The camera in its' tupperware container and bag is suspended from my waist down low as is a small bag with acending gear and spare light. A safety ascender is clipped to my harness and slung over my shoulder for a just-in- case. I know from past experience other places where it is so tight you can't reach anything better have something close to you to grasp if you need it.

Sure enough the descent does not disapoint. I wiggle into the keyhole, like putting on a recalcitrant pair of jeans. I have no need to hold the rope and it is very tight. I have one arm down and one arm up over my head. I carefully rotate slightly and feel with my feet. My view is only of a stone wall a few inches away. It's a mental exercise in here, and feeling every inch of your body move; find it's way. Gravity helps. I slowly slip down, adjusting if I seem to wedge, and descend the chute. A play by play is given to the other cavers by one who is monitoring my progress. Once thru the second slot he will loose sight and I'll be on my own. The second slot requires more repositioning and at one point I take my helmet off to slide on down, then just sit it loosely on top of my head. I have a spare headlamp on a strap around my neck, tucked into my shirt.
The passage bells out and I am in the top of the room. I quickly get control of the rap device and slowly come to a wall and walk on down. The room explodes in the light of my headlamp into a thousand sparkly pure white crystals. A profusion of bristly helectites thrust out at every angle. I move carefully in the delicate room, at the bottom I call "off rope" and then "WOW!!!"
Alice in Wonderland in the hole. What an amazing place. The walls are covered in the aragonite crystal, so dense it seems that the whole wall is stickered with giant snowflakes in various shapes, all with spikey tips. There is some color here and there, pale yellows, root beer.
Formations too, around the corner a massive heavily decorated shield, flowstone, et al. The camera goes to work; I am frustrated with my lack of technical skill, do the best I can using my finger at times to partially block the flash to try and avoid "whiting" out everything. I get a call for a belay and go back and help the two other guys who can make it come down. The others stay topside, unable to fit the hole. We point out incredible details to each other, and muse at the crazy wanderings of the helectites which defy gravity and curl every which way. One soda straw, the diameter smaller than my little finger, is over 7 feet long, well taller than any of us. How long does that take, we wonder??
We are not here long, yet it seems eternity is here and we are in it. Time is not relative. It is time for the ascent, I dread it and rightfully so. The first guy up is an excellent climber and is thin and strong. He struggles quite a bit at the top, then it is my turn. We had been told by an old timer that to get out you might have to be pulled out from above. I had brought a hauling pully, with a lock off on it, just in case. I use a full ascending set up for the initial part, just to save energy from climbing. It'll be tough soon enough. The second slot descending, first slot ascending is my nemesis. My upper body gets partially thru, then your legs are just hanging, or in my case I have one foot in a loop to rest and support. The problem is it is so tight I cannot advance my ascending device and can't bend my knee at any rate to come up thru the hole. I take everything off my waist except my harness and pass it up. I even pass my helmet up, it feels it is blocking my vision and I pull my small headlamp up onto my head. Your upper body is also poorly positioned with poor leverage to get you up. I struggle so much I sweat fiercely, waves of steam come up from the hole. The caver above me says " Relax, calm down". I do so, and rest. Don't panic, you will get out. Amusingly, he calmly says, "Boy, you know some bad words I don't think I've even heard some of those combinations", I have to laugh and say "Just wait, you'll hear some more right now".

I somehow get it together, move a few inches, then the world opens up, I come up the keyhole. A little more. I am exhausted suddenly. A bottle of water is handed to me and I drink deeply. The final push out. I flop out like a fish on the floor, so glad to be out. The caver who was first up announces" I'll never go down there again, that was the hardest thing I've ever done and that last part freaked me out". By the end of the trip we were talking about a return and survey---haha, painful memories can be shortlived in the presence of beauty.

We move on, after eating for energy. We stop for lunch, then the group splits, three heading out and taking their time to wait for us at the entrance. We will head for another remote photo op, not far away but requiring more rappelling. We set the rope, down the slope, then a tricky slick as snot upclimb, to another spectacular room hidden away for eons. Small idyllic clear pools, islands in the floor, majestic columns. It's all good. We slide down a slope on our butts, I tear out the seat of my pants but luckily have tights on underneath ( Descended the Starroom in tights and a tight tank top, no loose clothing in there). We climb up using just safety ascenders, derig and move on so the others won't have to wait too long, more fun climbing and crawling and sliding. At the entrance we put on our warmer approach clothing, it's dark and cold outside now. When we come out the moonlight makes the snow in the hills around us glow eeriely. Something unmatched in the feeling right after you come out of a cave to the world. The space change is just incredible to me. We group together down at the vehicles, talking, drinking, planning under the moon's watchful gaze. The post caving winddown. Another great day and another great place. Magical----

Story 2

Into the dark----A call comes "this may be virgin cave!!!"

That stimulates us to drop our survey kits, even our packs, and go exploring---
Shouts--"bring the camera" makes me skirt some dicey climbs and traverse a very slick rounded dome of flowstone. The others are tall enough to reach the ceiling and I am not, so go low and use my knee pads for more friction. My new caving boots--el cheapo earth shoes hi tops for $19.00---do really well for grip.
Oh my--- the cave goes on and certain parts are trafficed, but where we go seems to be no old or new signs of passage. We had been led to believe the survey of this area would be short and sweet, uncomplicated. But the cave has other secrets. It goes on, above us, below us, beside us.
A shield with a long drapery of flow stone stands about 15 feet tall. Another is near the ceiling, jutting out and defying gravity. A slope of darker stained flow stone with helectites also darkly stained causes conversation. A starburst pattern in some different rock gives us pause to the tremendous forces at work here eons ago.
What a great experience. Perhaps the first to see, or at least the few to see and photograph. One area really needed a tripod and some slave lights. The ceiling adorned helectites are the densest and most compicated I had ever seem. Lots of sparkly gypsum in this room too. Fanciful designs, one of a shark swimming upside down ( I named it the shark room), a dog with a floppy ear, a long saw like the lumbercutters use.
We feel we are near the surface, some of the floor is damp wet dirt, some corners of rooms have gravelly breakdown. No roots to be seen though. This part of the cave is extremely wet, at times little drips on your shoulder. We are wet from butt sliding and crawling, fortunately the caves warmth and humidity guard us.
Gorgeous formations are close at hand to, we have to move at times very carefully, avoid raising your head lest you bang it on some stalactite.
We take off in all directions, loosing sight of each other but stay in voice contact. Some crawl spaces lead to rooms. Others just little nooks. One I crawled in I called for the other two cavers, it was an old "pool" room, very distinct water line and mammilary bodies, intact and stained bright orange from old water, now gone.
We explore joyfully, we have a fourth person on the other side of the tight entrance, to assist our climb out. We almost forget about him and the time passes. We had surveyed some points but realized to do the whole thing would be at least one to two more trips, more equipment and a certified sketcher needed. I want to learn how to do that too.
Climbing down where you cannot ascertain your holds was awesome. I had brought a hand line and we used it several places. One place I hugged a thin column and swung on over. I am amazed how my confidence is slowly building in my ability to travel this challenging and beautiful cave.
Now to leave. Gravity assisted us in the descent through the "keyhole" but it was so tight I took my helmet off and guided it behind me. I was first through so memorized what I could see and I went in on my back with feet first, no way to see past a small about 12 inch high passage. Getting out you had to fight gravity and no good holds. It was tough. Our helper had to grab one outstretched arm and pull like heck to keep us up along the wall to keep from sliding down and trapping your hip in a rocky notch.
In the main cave we had rigged ropes for traverses as the coming weekend some out of town cavers would be coming through, normally ropes are not left in here due to environmental degredation. However this was done to speed what might be a large group through. Again, rigging is a science and an art. We got to try out our set up. I used a small pully on one to have my own "zip line"; pretty fun.
It was suprising to come out to daylight. After the hike to the cars we all changed into clean clothes and rehashed the day. Everyone's face looked different. I realized it was the new light in our eyes, from the wonders of the day. I would love to keep that feeling forever.

06-17-2007, 04:52 AM




06-18-2007, 06:37 AM
Thanks for posting! :2thumbs:

07-30-2007, 06:59 AM
Wow, awesome stories and good pics too. Thanks for sharing!