Caving Narrative 1988 - November 16

Caver in Half-Mile Hall
Caver in Half-Mile Hall

NPS Photo

Jim Nepstad, Darren Ressler, Bill Rodgers

Duration of Trip:
12 hours

New Cave Surveyed:
333 feet

Today's trip was interested in pushing the western boundaries of the cave. Jim had been in the northern end of Half Mile Hall two times in recent weeks and suggested the Sugar Shack area as a good spot to check leads. The Sugar Shack was one of those areas in Wind Cave which had seen only one other previous trip-the original discovery trip. We were all very interested to see the reason behind the name-visions of beautiful frostwork clusters danced in our heads.

After sweating our way out to Half Mile Hall and doing some minor route-finding at one point we finally began closing in on our destination after two and one-half hours. Then we promptly turned and went in the wrong direction ...starting our way back down another part of Half Mile Hall. As many times as this happens during our explorations of the cave it still surprises a little bit just how easily and quickly one can get disoriented.

Getting back on track we found the crawls leading off toward the Sugar Shack. Much to our dismay we found that the name was not in reference to great frostwork displays but rather to the powdery and sandy rock and soil in the area. This type of rock in the cave invariably winds up all over a caver's person. It is similar to crawling on a beach-with the beach being overhead as well as under belly. It crumbles and rains down the back of your shirt and pants-into your eyes and ears and everywhere else it can possibly get.

After crawling through the grit for an hour or so, checking leads, we finally found a crawl leading off to the west which dropped down a considerable distance. This first crawl and the room below we named The HMM Hole-the first expression at seeing the sudden drop below you was a concerned "Hmmm..." This first room was totally shattered; large blocks of breakdown hung unto the walls and undoubtedly would come tumbling down if used as handholds. To get down you have to cling to one wall-picking out the biggest loose rocks to hold onto, thinking light while looking down a twenty foot drop beneath you.

At the bottom of this first drop was a tight squeeze into the breakdown through which a caving helmet just barely fit and a caver's belly just barely fit as well. Bypassing a great aragonite frostwork display brought us to another room and through another crawl to a room with a 20 foot pit dropping down even further. Scrambling down the climb brought us to a hundred foot long horizontal passage with lots of frostwork and no way out. This last drop had given us a dead end.

Heading back out, we were satisfied with the 333 feet we had surveyed. We only had time to check leads at the very end of the Sugar Shack passage-which was probably the only area that the original surveyors had checked thoroughly. The rest of the passage is unchecked and remains for another trip on another day.

Report by: Darren Ressler

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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