Jim Nepstad, Darren Ressler
Duration of Trip:
New Cave Surveyed:
One of the primary purposes of today's trip was to escape the 20 below zero temperatures that have been entertaining us for the last few days. Dropping down into the 53 degree warmth and the 90-plus percent humidity of the cave was a welcome change. Our plan was to head west-out to Half Mile Hall, on to the Elephant Trunk and then north to the Ghost Lake area and south to Mystery Lake. The idea was to push our way over to the Museum. If we made a connection here the trip out to the Silent Expressway could be shortened considerably-in both time and energy.
Our first "working" stop was a pit on the way-near the Wind Gate. This drop involves an incredibly long-legged stretch-one foot on each wall and a long step down. Even though a loss of footing here would not involve more than a 4 or 5 foot fall, any kind of slip this far in the cave is to be avoided at all costs. We had brought along several lengths of nylon climbing webbing to set up a hand line that cavers could use to steady themselves and for mental support on the way up or down. While sitting around discussing where we should tie the webbing at the top of the drop, we noticed a small crawl headed off behind us. After negotiating one belly-crawl and a short and easy down-climb we found ourselves at the bottom of the drop. This crawl had never been checked before and was a good reminder that it always pays to look around a little. We had a simple and safe bypass to what had been a potential hazard.
When we reached our destination both Jim and I found crawlways leading off from the end of the surveyed passage. Neither lead had been entered before. After we checked these areas for at least a half-hour we got back together and decided to survey the passage that Jim had found since it appeared to go in the direction of the Museum. This new passage had good examples of fossil coral, large dog-tooth spar pockets in the walls, incredibly delicate boxwork and "Hollywood rocks" (sometimes called "lunar rocks", these are rocks that look quite substantial but actually weigh next to nothing). After several shots it became apparent that we were headed more to the south and east than to the west. After 210 feet the passage pinched out. Time had marched on-it was about 6 o'clock now-so we decided that we should start our march back out to the cold. After nearly 3 hours, a gallon of sweat apiece and a stop in the Club Room for a lemonade we emerged out into the -30 degree "real world". Kind of made us feel as though we should go right back down into the cave-which we will do...very soon.
Report by: Darren Ressler