Jim Nepstad, Bill Rodgers, Darren Ressler, Joelle Selk
Duration of Trip:
New Cave Surveyed:
All things considered, the summer of 1988 has been a very slow one as far as exploration of the cave is concerned. Along with the normal busy summer season, Wind Cave was also an active participant in the largest national cavers convention ever. Along with special cave tours offered during the convention, filming projects, cave lighting and cave management work has tended to entice most of us to spend our days off out in the sunshine. As the summer continues however, the itch to get back into the cave begins to grow. Today's trip was meant to shake some of the laziness out and hopefully to find something new.
Since 1984 Wind Cave has had two usable "natural" entrance. Every half-mile and one mile tour begins by viewing the natural entrance near the visitor center. Half a mile away there is what we affectionately called the Snake Pit Entrance. Until this entrance was connected to a known area of Wind Cave in 1984, extremely little exploration was done in the far northeastern corner of the cave. Surprisingly, even the connection of this entrance has not resulted in increased exploration. Many areas in this part of the cave have seen only one trip (the original survey trip) of explorers pass through. Our goal today was to check leads indicated around the Chimera Room.
The Snake Pit Entrance involves about one hour worth of belly crawling, with occasional rests, before you enter the first larger room. This first larger room has basketball-sized clusters of frostwork which we paused to admire before continuing on towards our destination.
One of the leads indicated on the map got Jim out and crawling through into a new area. Since Jim was the only one in the group not wearing a yellow helmet (his was orange), we named this the OH survey (for Orange Helmet). We explored and surveyed almost 200 feet before our tape measure self-destructed on us and we were unable to continue. The passages continued on from where we left off and will have to be returned to.
The most spectacular discovery on this trip was the OH Flow Freeway. Moving through the first room (the OH Hole) we came to an area with a wall full of three foot long soda-straw stalactites, numerous stalagmites, draperies and flowstone columns. One column (a joined stalactite and stalagmite) was over 5 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter at the base. Stalactites and flowstone are very unusual in Wind Cave and this was the most amazing display any of us had seen in the cave.
After finishing our surveying we decided to make a little history. When the connection was made in 1984 the exploration party went back out the Snake Pit Entrance. Today we continued on down what is known as the KX Survey, over to the Club Room and then out to the Garden of Eden. From the Garden of Eden we walked back along the half-mile tour route to the man-made entrance. Since the natural entrance is permanently gated, we could not squeeze our way through that way. We succeeded, however, in accomplishing (as close as one could), a gate-to-gate trip-for the first time, after 10 hours in the cave, one entrance to the other.
Report by: Darren Ressler