Caving Narrative 1987 - December 20

Joe Decker going down Plummer's Pit
Joe Decker going down Plummer's Pit

NPS Photo

Shaun Larson, Greg Nepstad, Jim Pisarowicz, Darren Ressler, Karen Rosga

Duration of Trip:
3-1/2 hours

New Cave Surveyed:

The trip of December 16th had surveyed to the bottom of Plummer's Pit but could continue no farther up the "pit" because of a lack of technical rock climbing equipment. As Wind Cave has few drops or climbs that require such equipment it is generally not carried unless the explorers know that it will be required. This short evening trip was planned to climb the "pit."

We began the trip by dividing up the climbing gear. We took a 150 foot climbing rope, a 150 foot caving rope, a dozen carabineers, half a dozen pitons, a piton hammer, an etrier, and a short aluminum rope ladder. Within half an hour of entering the cave we were stationed at the bottom of the pit.

Because of the severe rockfall problem in this area only myself as lead climber, and Shaun as belayer, stayed in the immediate Plummer's Pit area (Shaun called it the "Bowling Alley"). The others went off checking leads in the vicinity of the Lonely Palace.

The first part of the climb went relatively smoothly. In 1959, the National Speleological Society (NSS) Expedition to Wind Cave had placed expansion bolts in the lower part of this climb as they attempted to make their way up the pit. Secured by the climbing rope and using carabineers, the etrier and the aluminum rope ladder, I slowly ascended the hole in the ceiling of this room. Unfortunately the aid ended after only 25 vertical feet.

From the vantage point of standing in the etrier, I saw a chimney of flaky rock with a 2 by 6 jammed into the passage. I reached out to the board and literally stuck my finger right into the wood. It had rotted out over its years in the damp cave. After trying this climb I had almost resigned myself to heading down when I suddenly thought I had the pitch figured out. I wedged myself across the void and chimneyed up and up and up. There was no place to put in protection but I soon crawled through a hole above me into a small room. The rock in this room is completely broken up and fractured so I decided to call it Shattered Hall. The most surprising find in Shattered Hall was a piece of newspaper dated 1895. The rotted 2 by 6 had probably been in the cave for almost 100 years.

I tried to shout down to Shaun but was too far above him for him to hear (over 100 feet). I pulled up some slack in the rope, found a couple of large rocks to anchor the rope, and then rappelled back down.

As it was getting late, we decided that Shaun and I should reclimb the pit and rig the caving rope to be used by the others for a return trip the next day. This we did but not before Shaun and I found another climb continuing further up. This we will attempt on tomorrow's return survey trip. A trip up Plummer's Pit to Shattered Hall and into (we hope) a major new discovery.

Report by: Jim Pisarowicz

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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