Steve Dunn, Marc Lamphere, Ed LaRock, Shaun Larson, Jim Pisarowicz, John Scheltens
Duration of Trip:
New Cave Surveyed:
Silent Expressway represents the western edge of Wind Cave. For this reason it receives much attention from cavers as they discuss the possibilities of where new cave will be found. Unfortunately, a trip to Silent Expressway is no small undertaking as the travel time (for a fast group) is often in excess of 3 or 4 hours (one way). The last two trips into this area discovered no new cave. With these thoughts we headed into Wind Cave on the long trek to Silent Expressway.
The plan for this trip was somewhat different from previous tips to the Silent Expressway. Two years ago, on the last trip to map new cave in this zone, Andy Flurkey was lowered down a pit with pack straps. At the bottom of the pit he indicated that he thought the passage continued but did not want to push it because of his precarious position so far into the cave. On our trip we were carrying a rope so that we could negotiate this pit.
Three hours after entering the cave we were rigging our rope at the top of the once descended pit. After we had anchored the rope, I did a quick French arm rappel down the drop. Shouting up to the others that I intended to check ahead, I turned down the large fissure.
This fissure quickly ended at the level I was at but continued up a climb. Chimneying up into the ceiling about 40 feet I encountered a hole going down (again) but it had good air movement. I was really excited as I made my way down the tight hole expecting at any moment to pop into the large passage that was responsible for all the air flow. The passage continued down and continued to blow so I headed back to get the others.
Meanwhile, John had found an upper level above the hole I had descended. We decided to follow the air first with Shaun and I pushing ahead while the others surveyed what we had discovered. This worked extremely well except the passages shut down on us. All the wind dissipated through small cracks and fissures that we could not get through.
We regrouped at this point and began pushing into the upper level leads that John had first entered. These were low, wide crawls with yellow clay floors. This area is a maze of these kinds of crawls but by the time we had started surveying there it was time to begin the long trip out of the cave to meet our trip time table.
This new area has pretty good potential, especially considering that the previous two trips out here did not uncover any new leads. I am sure that we will return to continue exploring these new crawlways, following the wind to who knows where.
Report by: Jim Pisarowicz