Elk Mountain Campground Closed
The Elk Mountain Campground is closed and will remain closed through the summer of 2013 due to across the board budget cuts.
Caving Narrative 1989 - February 17
Duration of Trip:
New Cave Surveyed:
On our last trip to this area, Jim and I had found several walking leads that we wanted to return to. The leads seemed to promise at least several hundred feet of new cave. Once we reached our destination we began the survey by climbing straight up a narrow 20 foot tall fissure to the level where some of the leads were. After several minutes of poking around on this level, Marc spotted a hole leading up from the other side of the fissure. Bob, as our designated guinea pig, decided to give it a try. He made his way up and, in short order, disappeared. After several minutes we heard Bob yelling from above that he had found borehole or huge walking passage. We told him to go check the area out and to try to find another way up (since the rest of us did not care for the looks of the climb that Bob had done). We looked from below, Bob looked from above and after 30 minutes it became apparent that this climb was the only way up.
After Bob climbed back down and had a quick lunch, we all decided to give it a go and try to climb up. The climb is offset from the fissure below by just a few feet so as you look for footholds you are also peering down into the dark space 30 feet beneath you. By straddling the drop and traversing along shallow ledges on either side you come to a spot where you begin chimneying straight up. By pushing your back against one wall and your feet against the other, using these pressure holds and the little nubs of rock which stick out, after 15 feet you get to a spot where the passage begins to slope upward and you can scramble to rest of the way. Since we were using the letters TW to designate our survey and we had been discussing toxic waste disposal problems earlier (and considering the relatively scary nature of the climb) we dubbed this the Toxic Waste Dump.
At the top of the climb we were in a huge middle level room. This became the Big Sky Room-referring to a dream I had had earlier in the week where in I discovered a new entrance to Wind Cave and came out to the surface somewhere in Montana. The Big Sky Room was 25-30 feet tall, 40 feet wide and at least 60 feet long. Wandering off to the northwest through large walking passage we finally were stopped in a large room with a breakdown area at one end. This became the Hay Day Room since Bob said we were having a real "hay day" in the cave. As we surveyed back toward the Toxic Waste Dump we found a passage that popped out high in the ceiling of what appeared to be a huge room below. I was fairly certain that it was a room we had already been in. Bob swore up and down that it couldn't be. He was sure of it.
As we continued the survey, Bob went back the way we had entered and found that it was indeed a room we had gone through. We named this WFT Hall. Just another twilight zone experience in Wind Cave.
We continued back the way we had come, passing some amazing crystals Bob had discovered earlier. These dog-tooth spar impression had a crystal face on each facet impression and glimmered with rainbow colors when you played your light along the way. This was named the Rainbow Beehive-the impressions, in some spots, give the wall the appearance of honeycomb.
We were all relieved after successfully negotiating our way down the Toxic Waste Dump and connecting back to our survey. After analyzing the survey data we found that the drop down this initial climb was almost exactly 100 feet. Including the whole survey and climbs that we did not survey, the vertical relief in this area of the cave approaches the height of a 16 or 17 story building! This indicates that there might be a large area of undiscovered upper level passages in this part of the cave. Further exploration will try to see if the indications hold true.
Report by: Darren Ressler
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