Nielsons Well and the day I almost died Caving
Nielsons Well is the 22nd deepest cave in the US at 880 feet. I had the opportunity to explore this cave in it's early years, pushing virgin cave and deep unexplored drops on multiple trips. Nielsons was the hot spot for cavers in the 90's, with what seemed at the time an unlimited amount of adventure and depth potential.
When I was first introduced into the deep cave exploration team, I had never experienced anything like this cave. I was new to caving at this level, and will admit a slight bit nervous. To give people an 'Intro' to deep cave exploration, the team leaders setup an introduction to Nielsons Well trip. I of course being very eager at the time, jumped on board with full enthusiasm.
On my first trip to the cave I took my camcorder. I dragged this thing every where. And I thought, hey what a better cave to film. So in 1994 on my first trip I did just that. Dragged my $2000 (at the time) camcorder into a cave I knew nothing about, but ready to learn everything I could. After my first trip I realized that this was a cave not for my camcorder. Maybe someday I will return to make a proper documentary on such an amazing and beautiful place.
Every winter I would snow shoe the 4 miles to the cave entrance, mostly just for the beauty but also to stay in shape. I did this for six winters while living in the Logan.
The video is broken into two parts. The first one is the raw footage I took from the trip. The second is the same footage with audio commentary. I wish I had taken my camera threw Bat Trap while we were there, but I didn't know what to expect and left it behind. Another day.
On July 3rd 1995 we were about the launch the largest most extensive exploration of the cave to date. We had cavers from all over the US.
My friend Jim and Dan went into the cave first, and my friend Duane was to be the next person. But the entire trip he had a really bad feeling about it, and in the end decided to not enter the cave. So next up, me.
I got about 25' down the passage when my friend Dave stopped to ask me what the plan was for out group. After about a two minute conversation I continued my rappel. I got about another 50' when all of a sudden I hit by something huge, something hard. A rock. I was stunned at first, and thought what the crap was that. Not realizing what had just happened. The other two cavers below me thought I had dropped my pack. Then they suddenly realized it was a huge rock. They started yelling up to see if I was ok.
I just look at my rack. Wondering what happened. Then suddenly, blood starting running down my face unlike anything I had ever seen. I knew I was in trouble. I quickly locked off my rack in fear that I might pass out. I yelled out that I had been hit by a rock and bleeding badly. And there I am, 280' in the air hanging on a rope thinking that I might actually die.
I felt the rope drop just a little. My friend Jim yelled up that he was coming. I heard his ascenders screaming up the rope. In 30 seconds he climbed 280' up rope. When he got me he quickly assessed the situation. A decision had to be made, hook onto me and cut away my rack, lower me into the cave and thus turn this into a full scale rescue. Or see if I can make it out.
I looked at him and said I can make it out, I just need help switching over my system to ascending. Within a matter of minutes I was ready to go slowly started making my way back to the top.
When I finally got out of the cave, I felt very lucky to be alive.
A few factors fell into place that saved my life that day. If my friend Dave had not stopped to talk to me, I would have been much farther down the drop and that rock would have gone right threw me, killing me instantly.
The rock hit me in the head. Yeah, it was estimated at 50 plus pounds but it hit me where I had protection. It could have hit me in the shoulder, arms, leg, making things much worse.
And I was carrying a 350' rope slung around my neck and shoulder. When the rock hit me that rope acted like a shock absorber and kept me from breaking my neck. The rope was brand new and white. When we got the surface they held up the rope, half of it was deep red from all the blood I lost.
When I finally got out, we were able to control the bleeding and I was able to hike the four miles off the mountain and headed to the ER.
Here are a few pics.
The next summer I went back to Nielsons. My first time back at the entrance was the most nerve racking day of my life. But I did it, went to the bottom two times that summer. Pushing the cave to it's current depth. Hope you enjoyed the trip report.
Thanks everyone and happy caving.
05-05-2012 10:34 PM
Woah, now that's a story! Glad you are alive and able to tell the story!
Isn't it "Nielsons" Well? Also shouldn't it be "Nielson's"?
Post Thanks / Like
Glad you are okay and thanks for sharing your story. The residence helmet police (@ratagonia ) on bogley would be happy to see that you had a helmet on.