Rope Climbing Leads
NPS Photo by Geu
Trip: On 4/14/2007, Rod Horrocks led Ken Geu, Duff McCafferty, & Roger Harris to two climbing leads in the Whiskey Bottle Room area in the Historic Section.
Trip Report: We went back to the Whisky Bottle Room to survey the fissure/dome lead above station E16F in the Whiskey Bottle Room that we had looked at on our last trip to the Walking Stick Maze. Roger was able to squeeze up a nearby fissure into an upper level and then crawled over to the balcony lead that overlooked the Whisky Bottle Room. He then rigged a webbing etrier for the rest of us that couldn't fit up the tight fissure so we could climb into the unsurveyed area. It was about a 11-foot climb. Surprisingly, we found some evidence of 1890's exploration in that upper area. However, at one point, we found a virgin bellycrawl. This led into a sandy clay floored passage with drip cups and mudcracks. Unfortunately this ended after four shots.
We then surveyed into an upper level above another window in the Whisky Bottle Room where we found a spectacular 14" long stalactite above a 4" stalagmite, both amid some other soda straws. Ken got some good pictures of the formations. Surveying into an upward sloping passage above the second connection, we were stopped by a small window in a chert layer. We could look through the window into a 1-foot high bellycrawl over the top of the chert layer. However, we couldn't tell if it went or not. With 249 feet of survey and that area essentially finished, we rappelled out of the balcony lead down to the Whiskey Bottle Room. Ken got lots of pictures of the event since rappelling isn't something we do every day in Wind Cave.
We then went down to the LJH survey to push side leads. We found a fun little climbdown into those lower passages. We were surprised how spacious some of the passages were. We started with a dome lead at LJH9. Roger did the lead climb up the dome/fissure and rigged an etrier ladder for the rest of us. Without the etrier, I would have skipped that lead. At the top of the 22-foot high climb, the fissure continued horizontally. After a single shot we tied into LJH42, a lead left from a survey a couple of years previous. We then shot in the opposite direction a couple of shots before the fissure pinched out. Dropping back down the climb, we found the downclimb much easier than the climb up, which was surprising. We then surveyed a two-shot side lead at LJH10, which completely ended before jumping over to LJH22, where we shot into a small dome lead.
After climbing above the chert ceiling of the LJH22 passage, we found two short branching passages that ended after a single shot in each direction. We then dropped down to LJH24. From 24 we shot into a bellycrawl heading SW. This pinched in a too tight pit. We then shot straight ahead to the SE into a virgin room with a soft dirt floor. There was only one lead out of this room and unfortunately it was too tight. Backtracking, we shot into a short corkscrewing passage that pinched underneath LJH24.
We then surveyed into another short side passage that ended after a single steeply sloping shot. Leaving that area, we jumped back to LJH 25 and surveyed into a bellycrawl that opened into a parallel fissure. We found evidence that someone very small had pushed a body tight tube off this fissure in the 1890's (we suspect Alvin McDonald). This ended in a too tight fissure that dropped into a lower passage that headed into a blank area on the lineplot. It was frustrating that we couldn't get through. With 318 feet of survey, we decided that the LJH area was finished and we headed out of the cave. We finished the day with a total of 567 feet of survey.
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Did You Know?
Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.