• Wind Cave National Park - Two Worlds

    Wind Cave

    National Park South Dakota

Caving Narrative 1987 - November 25

Shaun Larson, Jim Pisarowicz

Duration of Trip:
9 hours

New Cave Surveyed:
599.5 feet

One of the curiosities about Wind Cave is the passage that leads to the lakes. Unlike other portions of the cave this passage does not exhibit the complex three-dimensional characteristics of the other sections of the cave. Most Wind Cave explorers believe that this is only because the passages on other levels have yet to be discovered in this part of the cave. This trip was an attempt to find a way into these as yet to be found passages.

We began our search just beyond Gateway Hall. In Gateway Hall is a fault which seems to dictate the character of the cave to the southwest. This plan was simple, climb into every ceiling fissure along the passage from Gateway Hall down to the lakes.

Making this plan difficult is that these passages are often 50 to 80 feet high. For most of the day we spent our time like human flies chimneying high into the ceiling. Often times I found myself stretched out to the limits of my height with toes on one crumbly wall and fingers on another with nothing below me for 50 feet or more except open space.

Just like a fishing trip, the large fish always seemed to be the ones that got way. At one location Shawn saw what appeared to be a hole in the ceiling. I started up the climb and when I was within 10 feet of the ceiling, straddled 50 feet above the floor, I was still unsure whether the passage went or not. But at this point, to continue on would have required making a nonreversible move. In other words, if the passage did not go, I would have been stranded 50 feet above the hard rock floor of the passage. I opted not to make that move.

It was a frustrating day because despite much hard work and almost death defying climbing, nothing seemed to go. Every high lead and chimney we checked ended or we could not seem to continue any further up without risking our lives.

In frustration we began searching for other leads on the same level as the floor of the lakes passage. In several places we found some unmapped cave and decided to survey these uncharted ways. These too all seemed to end. At the end of the passage we did survey was a tight crawl that nobody could get through but did have an elusive breeze. We dubbed it the No Way Crawl and pack our gear to head out for the day.

Report by: Jim Pisarowicz

Did You Know?

A picture of Alvin McDonald in his caving hat.

Alvin McDonald was the first systematic explorer of Wind Cave. He explored the cave from 1890 until his death in 1893. More...