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Thread: Darby Ice Cave 7-21-2012

  1. #1

    Darby Ice Cave 7-21-2012

    This was my third attempt at completing the Darby Ice Cave. My first attempt about 5 years ago ended when we were stopped by an ice plug at a squeeze located at the bottom of the Ice Cave. This forced us to reverse the Ice Cave to escape, which was pretty sketchy.

    My second attempt ended before it began when the cave was temporarily closed to protect against the white-nose bat syndrome.

    Third time is the charm.

    Ah, the Ice caves. Why wouldn't you want to go to a cold dark place that feels like it's crushing you? For those unfamiliar with the caves - You start at the Darby Ice Cave. It's a limestone cave, but the walls are covered in Ice, and the floor is frozen. You make your way deep into the cave to where you rappel off a 70' frozen waterfall, at which time most of the ice disappears.

    Next up is a squeeze through a tight crawl to reach the Wind Cave.

    After that you follow an underground river for what feels like forever through more tight squeezes and big rooms, downclimbing and rappelling numerous waterfalls. You are always wet to some degree from the underground river. It's a lot like canyoneering in the dark.

    Eventually you have to wade across and underground lake known as "Crotch Lake" because you freeze your daddy parts off in the ice cold water. And you know it's ice cold as you will see icicles hanging from the sides of the cave.

    Eventually you exit the beautiful Darby Wind Cave, which is about one mile west (as the crow flies) from where you went in. The underground length is easily triple that distance.

    Our trip was approximately 10 hours car to car, with 6 hours spent finding our way through the maze of caverns. It would take much longer without the excellent leadership and knowledge of the cave provided by price1869.

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    My Daughter Stormy getting ready to enter the Ice Cave

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    The gang: Price, Sam, Shane and Stormy.

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    Lot's of pictures of Stormy.

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    The old man fitting through a U-turn type squeeze.

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    The gang at the Wind Cave finish .

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  3. #2
    And here is a video of our trip through the Darby Ice Cave.


  4. #3
    Nice TR and video!

    Climbing out of the cave (on your first attempt) looks terrible. Knowing little about caving, it seems awfully impressive.

    You mention that you were wet most of the time; what did you wear to keep from freezing to death? Neoprene under your clothes?

    If I was canyoneering in the dark, in the ice, that is probably what I would do. I'm wondering if there is some cavers trick that I'm missing out on.


  5. #4
    Neoprene would make some of the squeezes very difficult, if not impossible for a bigger muscle bound guy like me.

    I dressed more like I was going ice climbing. The problem is you go from sections of cave where it's really cold to sections that are pretty warm, and back again. A lot of waterfalls along the route so a lot of mist and spray in the air. The route is very physical so that keeps you warm so long as you are moving...... hmmm.... sounds about like ice climbing.

    I did wear neoprene socks and was happy I did as my feet stayed warm. Lots of wading in ice cold water. The route has one long crawl through a squeeze in the mud, known as the "mud crawl". Also a huge silo (keeper pothole) you have to defeat. It's about as difficult as any keeper pothole I have seen in a slot canyon. It's known as "The Pit". Most groups have to enter the cave from the bottom and hang an escape rope before heading in from the top. We just brought along Price, our trusty rope gun to deal with the problem.

  6. #5
    Awesome TR! We will be going through the cave this Saturday. Just a few questions: how deep was crotch lake? Last time we went through it was just up to our shins. At the silo towards the end, was there still a bolt hanger? How were the anchors looking for the rappels?
    better off outdoors

  7. #6
    Crotch Lake was waist deep. From what I understand there was more water in the cave than normal. I also remember more ice in the Ice Cave than we saw this year. I believe both are caused by the dry year, which melted the ice plugs earlier than usual and allowed a warm draft through the cave for a longer period of time..... at least that is my best guess.

    Yes, there is still a hanger at the pit. There is actually a rope currently hanging at the pit, which I understand has never been there before.

    The anchors inside the cave looked good., but some of the hanging ropes looked tattered. We rappeled on our own ropes, but part of that was because we were using ATC's which are too small for the hanging ropes.

  8. #7
    Great, thanks
    better off outdoors

  9. #8

    Darby Ice Cave 7 21 2012

    Is the Valdez ice a safe bet for a weeklong trip end of feb/early march? Would Keystone, Bridalveil, and others be in good conditions then? thanks much, Wes

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