Darby Ice/Wind Cave - Fossile Mountain BETA
I've seen multiple trip reports for the Darby Wind/Ice Cave which has made me want to finally do something I should've done while my memory was fresh. Last year I ventured into the Ice/Wind cave after first learning about its existence 7 years before. I never found much beta online and anyone I contacted couldn't give me any specifics or go with me. Needless to say I decided I would go anyway. I ended up spending 44 hours in that damn cave exploring more passageways than I care to confess to. The best advice would be to find someone who has gone before. It's easy if someone is showing you the way. If you insist on exploring the cave without a guide, contact Teton County S&R and see if you can get a map from them. Their map doesn't have much on it other than the main path, but it would be better than nothing. Hopefully if you don't have a guide or a map, than maybe I can recall some beta to help you out. Keep in mind this is all from memory almost a year ago, so it may vary slightly. The entrance to the cave is about a half mile farther up the canyon than the exit, along the same cliff face. There is a large beautiful section of orangish limestone on a corner just below what appears to be a way up the canyon wall to the next shelf. Hidden in the corner of the limestone is the entrance. You almost don't see it til you're along the cliff on top of it. The cave is very easy to follow at first, with a floor of ice and various small ice slopes. Please hook yourself to the ropes rather than sliding down the slopes as you could potentially shoot off into the drop. The last little ice slope leaves you overlooking a 100 ft drop down an overhanging ice sheet. There are anchors on the left side. Keep in mind once you pull your rope, it would almost be impossible to climb out that way...something equivalent to a WI 12+, although I'm confident you could aid up it with ice screws if you absolutely had to. Once down into the heart of the ice cavern, there is a small belly crawl on the east side (lowest side). This continues for about 30 feet before you enter into a long low tunnel. If you follow this for several hundred feet you'll find a small tight passageway leading to another long low tunnel. If I remember correctly this repeats several more times. Eventually you'll come to a 30ft rappel into a cavern with a small trickling waterfall in it. After rappelling, if you proceed to the right side of the cavern you'll overlook down into the tunnel where you should continue. You'll actually need to find a small angled hole that'll allow you to slide down on slick rock through the boulders rather than trying to go straight over the edge. This next part is a bit fuzzy, but there's somewhat of two tunnels stacked on top of each other. If you're headed toward the exit you'll be on the lower; whereas if you're headed to the entrance you'll likely end up on the upper, which will dead end with the ability to drop down several holes to the lower. But since you're headed to the exit just stay on the lower and you'll be good. Again things are a bit fuzzy here, but you should be able to navigate fairly well. I do remember entering another large cavern where I crossed over a waterfall and followed a tunnel that eventually came to dead end after several hours. In other words, do not go over the waterfall. You should see a place in the cavern to climb down on some slick sloped rock about 10 ft. Follow this past the bottom of one waterfall only to lead you to the top of another. The anchors are on the back left of this waterfall. Once down the waterfall you should find yourself in a room that is about 20 x 20 with a narrow passageway opposite the waterfall that goes back about 40ft than makes a right turn. Follow that path through the wet and dirty squeezes and you should be fine. Again things are a little fuzzy here so bare with me. Eventually you'll come out into another large room/cavern. The real path is straight and low, but I'll come back to that. If you head right and find yourself stemming above a crack in the floor through a narrow tunnel that goes about 30 ft turns left and another 30 ft then you've gone the wrong way. I won't say that you've necessarily gone the wrong way, but it would be wise to turn around. If you choose to follow the upper path through the stemming above the crack, then you'll eventually find yourself in a small room with a crack in the center of the floor. If you follow the crack farther back then you'll come into what I believe is called the wormholes. I originally mistook this for the maze room. The wormhole area is comprised of numerous small passageways that are incredibly muddy. Most will quickly end or come back on themselves. Point being none will lead anywhere so you have two options. Go back along the stemming section and find the low path or build some anchors and go down the crack. The low path is the one that actually follows the stream as it cuts through the mountain. Take the low path as it follows the stream. Eventually the slope will increase and the water will move quicker for a while. Duck low and then the cave will open into a wide cavern that's very low. At this point the stream will cut straight and left under the rock. There is a way through there, but the best way is to head right once you've entered the wide low cavern and look for a rather perfectly round tunnel entrance. It will go back maybe 30 ft than cut left going straight for some time. It will lead you over some medium boulders for about 100 ft and then the tunnel will really open up. Eventually you'll come to a section where the tunnel is rather large, but the floor is filled with water along its length. I don't recall the length of each section, but I went into water up to my crotch and back out and then back in, repeat. Eventually you'll come to a large cavern where the water flows over into a large waterfall and some anchors are on the right side. Rappel down and follow the main path a few hundred more feet until you enter a large sloping room with tunnels branching off on each side. Congratulations you're in the maze room! Now I can speak from experience when I tell you that there are a lot of tunnels here. Tunnels branching off of tunnels, branching off into more tunnels, etc. etc. etc. I spent 12 hours straight exploring these tunnels and it's amazing how if you pick the right ones you can end up on the opposite side of the maze room 2 hours later (the most frustrating thing ever). Point being don't expect to rely on markers showing you which way to go. There are plenty of spots on the walls where you'll have 3 arrows pointing one way and 3 pointing the other way. It's chaos! The best marker to follow if you have to follow a marker is a red arrow. Proceed to the bottom of the maze room toward the little trickling waterfall. There are two large tunnels on your right side as you face the bottom of the maze room. You don't want the last one, but rather the next to last tunnel on the right side of the maze room. If you inadvertently chose the last tunnel, make all right turns and it'll take you to the correct path. Once again you want the second to last tunnel on the right side at the bottom of the maze room as you face the little trickling waterfall. Proceed down this tunnel taking the upper paths. Within maybe 200 ft you should enter a tall cavern with the tunnel continuing on the back right side. Continue a few more feet down the tunnel until you reach a large boulder in the middle of the tunnel. Do not try to squeeze past the boulder. Once you hit the boulder climb immediately up the left side of the tunnel wall maybe 15 - 20 ft until you see a small tunnel continuing above the bigger tunnel with the boulder. This small tunnel won't look like much since it doesn't have a complete floor but rather forces you to stem above a crack while crawling until you go back maybe 20 - 30 ft. After no more than 50 ft the small tunnel will widen quickly eventually leading you to "the pit". If you didn't put a rope on the opposite side before entering the cave, then the 20ft ascent may be tricky. It's likely only a 5.8, but it's very wet and dirty. Once down and up the other side, follow through more belly crawls until the cave opens leading to the large exit in the cliff. I don't really have any current desire to go back through the cave so please don't ask me to guide your group, although I'm positive I could do the cave in about 4 hrs now. Take standard rappel/ascend gear. Also take lots of food. There's a lot of water in the cave, you'll just want to either filter or be very selective about what you drink. Good luck!
08-09-2012 01:45 AM
I tried to send you a PM to talk about this beta, but it looks like it didn't go through. Will you call me when you get a chance? I'd love to talk to you about it.
It's my job to call the BS around here. Get over it.