View Full Version : Trip Report TR: Deep Creek Canyon Caves

06-10-2009, 07:05 PM
Well I wanted to ski Mt. Evans on Saturday and go Climbing on Sunday, but my friend Steven had other plans in mind for me. He talked me out of climbing due to weather forecasts for Sunday and talked me into going caving. I ended up staying at his house on Friday night as I was planning on skiing with him on Saturday. We had to wait for a friend of his untill around noon before we could take off anyway. Being un-motivated for the most part we slept through our morning ski departure time, and once awake did not feel the urge to go skiing. Instead we leisurely woke up, ate some food and got our gear all packed up in the truck. I also washed my rope in his tub for a solid hour, while my cover all's were washed in his washing machine.

Well it turns out his friend is not going to go with us. So we go to get food and beer for the night and next day, and we are off on the road. The crew starts off as Steve, Nate and I in one truck. Then Steve's dad and uncle met up with us in a different truck at Idaho Springs.

We all rally up to Dotsero, with hopes of seeing premonition. I had scouted our options on google maps and took screenshots with my camera for reference. I had spotted a road that goes up off sweet water that seems like it would cut miles off the normal approach up and around the head of the canyon. Well we get there to find that the road is on private land, go figure.

So we go back down the Colorado river, and head up the road to the canyon rim. The drive is really nice as you get 2-3 mountain ranges in the back ground (Gores? NY's, and the Elks):

Since we were coming from this side I decided that it would be advantageous for us to hang in the area near fixin to die as there are quite a few caves in the area. If we can manage to find fixin to die we will easily have a very full day of caving for the following day. Even if not we can probly make a full day out of it.

We locate the area and find a nice camp site out on a point on the rim, not far from the caves.We wander around for a while before it starts to get dark, trying to get some bearing on where we really are and where the caves might be.

There are a lot of prospects across the canyon towards where I would guess premonition resides.

I had no idea the canyon was quite this large:

It was hard to tell what was below us though as the cliff was sheer at the rim. Before we set up camp we wandered the rim trying to orient our selves, and make sure we were in the right spot before wasting time to set up camp, and take it down again to go looking more elsewhere.

Eventually I caught a view of this sucker:
Nathan and I decided to try to find a way to walk down to the base, as it looked like there was a path along the base of the cliff. We weren't equipped to go caving at this point in time, we were just scouting as it was getting later in the afternoon. We got down to the cave we spotted from above via a break in the cliffs to our N NW and figured it kept going. Mainly because someone dragged logs up the slab at the mouth of the cave, up to the hole that went up from there. We figured if someone took the trouble to drag 2 logs up here then it's got to be something.

We decide to wander a little more to really verify we are in the right spot. Not far to the S SE was another hole slightly up from the path maybe 10'or so up the cliff. I went up and in far enough to know it most likely kept going (maybe 50-100' back in to the thing using my lighter). Feeling fairly confident that we are in the right spot, we head back up.

On the way I find a fun way to scramble back up with more exposure then the walking path, but enough features to manage the risk reasonably. I'm 1/2 to 3/4 up the thing and Nathan calls out to me saying he's found something else.

The view from camp is great as your right on the rim:
I spotted a couple other possible options up canyon:

We set up camp and feasted around a very nice fire. After that we wandered out to the rim to envy the full moon in such a spectacular place.

The moon was lighting up thin clouds that passed by with a very cool iridescent translucent spectrum of colors:
The lower light in this one is my friend Stevens head lamp

We stayed up till between 11 and 1 depending on who you were, then went to bed with the anticipation of the big day to come. I couldn't help to think we might be sleeping right over a cave, and possibly a large one at that.

The next morning we woke up and ate and took off for the caves around 7-7:30. We first explored the cave Nate found at the end of our scouting mission the evening before. Talk about a squeeze. Nate had the privilage of going first as he found it and he's the squeeze master Mr Wiggles as I call him.
Nate going down the entrance squeeze which was wider than what waits below:

I go next as I'm the next size up for our groups body types. The first squeeze is a little tight, I have to put my arms above my head and slip through. Really it's just a warm up though. I get through and Nate is below me, the cave is like a slide going down. The next section we are not too sure about, it kinda looks like a dig as there are sticks in there that seem to be used for digging. After pulling a couple of handfuls of dirt back from the hole Mr. Wiggles slips through no problem. It was crazy as the cave stopped going down and went flat right at the tightest spot.
Once he got through the passage widened gradually into a small room where it was comfortable enough to sit or crouch. I didn't think I was going to get through and the first couple attempts were quite laughable. Eventually I pushed a bit of dirt through to Nate and I somehow managed to slide through. He went head first on his stomach, but I don't know how his back bent like that as I don't think mine would. I kept sliding feet first on my butt.

Nate poping his head back through before I slid through:

We hung out in the room for a little and realized that was the end of it unfortunately. We realized it was probly a dig or a study area for someone as there were some interesting mineral deposits, but not much passage(maybe a 100'). Back out we go, it took me a little while but I got back out eventually after a good bit of tenderizing, moaning, and groaning.

I think this one might be called mud hole?

Next we went to check out the cave with the wide mouth, and logs wedged for upward passage into the darkness. One of Nates trades is being a lumber jack of sorts, so he eagerly offered to climb the logs up into the darkness. This cave was pretty neat as it had a fair amount of mossy looking features aswell as some pink rock.

At this point in time it was snowing outside.
Looking back out the mouth of the cave:
The first log climb:
Some of the mossy and pink rock features near the first upclimb:

Once Nate got up he realized there was another even more sketchy exposed up climb. So we opted to bring the rest of the group up to a pocket beside the next climb and put Nate on belay. Nate somehow makes it up. He says there isn't much up there and it dead ends. Also that the climb was sketch, and that if we want to come up we should fix a line to ascend for the easiest option. I decide I'll go up but the other's don't want to bother, as there is more to see in other holes so they hang in the pocket.
A pic of the second climb looking back to the belay hole as I ascend the fixed rope:
Nate tied off the jammed log for pro, and had to make a few more free moves above what you can see in this photo.

There was some cool stuff on the way up:

I'm guessing this is the curtain room cave.

Next we went to the other cave to the S SW not more then 50-100' down canyon. We are assuming this is the ice box based on the formations seen inside(freezer ice looking moon milk and coral looking stuff):

Intermission(I went to sleep and work then came back to this)

Alright I'm back for another round of story telling...(sorry if things get repeated or the writing change,s I had to re write this 2 times because of my computer)

I think I'll start by informing you all of our plans to give some perspective on this next part of the story.

There is a very large cave which is in the area called "feels like I'm fixin' to die"(I'll just label it as FTD, it's 4.2 miles long and 266' deep). There is also about 9 other caves in the area. We planned to check out honkey as it was described as well decorated; and roybals as it's only 300' long, and is our land mark to find FTD. This plan would allow us maximum time to explore FTD. There is also an un-identified cave right near honkey so we figured we would check it out also. At the time we were assuming the curtain room cave was honkey and the ice box cave was the un-identified cave. We took off from there expecting to find roybals next then FTD. Here is where we realized our assumptions were quite off. We came to the next cave and went in:
Disappointed to find a register labeled honkey. CRAP!
It was around noon then and we figured we were doing alright on time prior to this. We didn't know how big honkey was so we weren't so sure anymore. Since it was supposed to be well decorated we checked it out anyway. It sure didn't meet my expectations but it was still pretty cool.
Moon milk stalagtites:
some other formations:
Mr Wiggles in action again on another crawl:
The entrance had some cool moss growth:
We came back out and took off walking again, we passes the un-identified cave on the way to roybals. We were short on time now and really wanted to see FTD. We came up to roybals and decided to pass on it aswell. On the way to the next visible hole we came across a waterfall and deep steep drainage that had to be crossed. It looked possible but not worth the risk as we had no rock pro and a slip up could be deadly. We decided we could probably rap in from above and that would be safer so we headed back toward a spot where we could climb back up to the rim.

We decided to check out roybals on the way back as it was supposed to be short, I'm glad we did as it was cooler then honkey IMO.
The goods:
Nate shining his light through a thin curtain:
more formations:
There was even some good squeezes, I had to twist my way through one of them:
Also the entrance was pretty sweet as it had a really cool skylight:

We climbed back up and walked over to the top of this:
We figured we were on the right path as we saw a rope tied up between a couple of trees, but it didn't go anywhere. I thought it was some sort of marker, we had to be on the right path.
We walk a bit closer to the lip of the rim and rig up my 60M climbing rope.
We aren't sure how far down it is so I go first with the ascenders and second rope in my pack just incase.

I'll admit I was a bit nervous as the nature of the rap had the end of the rope out of sight till the last 30 or so feet. I got down however with no problems and a mere 15' to spare!
Nate came down next (Steve's knee hurt so it was just the 2 of us now):

We go to the mouth of the cave and find a large pile of stacked rocks in the alcove. We figure it's got to be the right place. It looks like the entrance might be a crawlway so I go and check it out only to find it pinch out very quickly. We look around for any other options and all that turns up, is we are supposed to stand on the pile of rocks and go up the hole in the ceiling. So up we go...

I should mention that considering FTD is 266' deep we have another 60m and another 60-100' stretch of rope for raps or hand lines. This plus a bunch of water,2 spot lights and extra headlamps and batteries, an extra fleece top a camera and 50+' of webbing and vertical ascent and descent gear. The hole going up got a bit tight as you chimneyed up, making getting the packs up a real pain in the ass. Eventually we came to a split after much agony and it trended horizontally luckily so we could catch a break.
Turns out one of the splits dead ends shortly(I see light coming through a small hole about 10" around), and the other goes out to another opening that was up the cliff face. Frustrated as hell we go back down the chimney hole, this time much easier as gravity did all the work with the packs. it's about 5 pm at this point in time and the desperation is setting in. We have to atleast find the entrance of FTD. So before climbing back up the rope we search around a bit. I find this just around the corner:

I needed to verify so we went in and Nate explored a 15' pit that dead ended. I noticed a possible way up through the ceiling, but it was very exposed and looked un-traveled. I had to verify so up I went, carefully. I was about 30' above the pit at this time so it would have been very ugly had I slipped (45' drop into a hole).

When I got inside I hade a grim realization. I had just came in the hole Nate explored in the last cave and I was indeed in the same small stupid cave. Back out and down I went the way I came for practice. CRAP.

I kept walking S SW and found this:

Again we needed to verify so in we went. unfortunately this one dead ended aswell. It was about 5:45 now and we had to go, so back up the rope we went. As I waited for Nate to come back up I spotted a large stack of rocks out on the prow to my S SW and thought it was a little odd. There were some holes at the base however so I found it more interesting then odd. We spaced out some gear at the drop point and I didn't realize till I got back to camp. So once I got my stuff packed up to leave I walked back over and retrieved it. I had a hunch I should walk over and look to see what the cairn is all about.
So as is often a good idea, I let my intuition lead my path. Once at the cairn I see a crack going into the ground deeply but it's only like 4" so that can't be it. Slightly puzzled I walk out along the edge of the cliff investigating possibilities. Sure enough I find 2 bolts spaced 2-3' apart with no hangers but nuts still attatched. I find it odd that there could be a single climbing route alone up here and that the bolts could be spaced so widely and with out hangers(not that it would be crappy climbing but rather there would be alot of routes to accompany it more then likely due to the quantity and quality of rock around). I hadn't seen any other climbing routes/bolts in the 1/2-3/4 of a mile I walked along the base and the same distance on top. I figure that's got to be it, but I have no way to know for sure untill I go back and rap off the extremely sheer/overhanging prow. I was getting slightly spooked thinking about it as I stood there alone looking at the bolts.

I've been in contact with Dan at caves are for all and he sent me some more clues. That's how I have an idea what caves we were actually in besides the ones with the registers(just honkey and roybal). Turns out the short cave with dual entrances is called the buttress cave and the other one we explored at the end is called the cosmic bananna. Neither were really that worthy of pictures especially since we were short on time.

All in all it was a great trip even though we didn't find FTD. Nate and I went into 7 caves total this trip which is pretty damn good. I wasn't really that impressed by what I saw mostly (the powerline cave is still my favorite so far), though obviously some stuff was cool enough to shoot pics of.

06-11-2009, 06:53 AM
It is all about the exploration!! Great pics, thanks for sharing!

06-11-2009, 08:28 AM
Agreed! Even though you didn't find what you were looking for it still makes a great story man. thanks for sharing.

06-11-2009, 10:28 AM
Very nice. A+ on the TR. 7 caves in one trip! Nice!

06-11-2009, 01:40 PM
Awesome, thanks for posting!

06-15-2009, 03:13 PM
AWESOME trip report!! I'm going to read that again when I don't have a baby screaming in my ear. It's hard to concentrate.

Scott P
06-20-2009, 08:54 PM
Nice pics. There are lots of caves in that area.

The drive is really nice as you get 2-3 mountain ranges in the back ground (Gores? NY's, and the Elks):

If you are curious, you're first photo is Mount Sopris, the second is Capitol Peak and the 3rd and 4th are the Maroon Bells.