Caving Narrative 2008 - August 5

Stalactites and ribbons in the Rite of Spring room in Wind Cave.
Stalactites and ribbons in the Rite of Spring room in Wind Cave.

Photo by Tom Jarvela.


Chris Amidon, Tom Jarvela, Kali Leitheiser, April Oesterling

Duration of Trip:

13 hours

New Cave Surveyed:

576.65 feet

A great trip. One of the best I've led. We bribed ourselves to start early, 7:00am instead of the usual 8:00am, so that we could try to be out of the cave by 8:00pm in order to celebrate our intended sucecss (which we achieved!) at Pizza Hut.

Having caved through The Happy Route 5 times, I've established a base timeline for the trip. With average cavers leaving from the Post Office:

  • To Cave City: 1 hour
  • To the KYY-WQ connection: 1.5 hours
  • To the Swiss Cheese Connection: 2 hours

Note: If travel is via the T survey, add thirty minuets of travel time.

Note: If travel is via the WU bypass, a tight constriction exists at the WU to WQ connection).

Note: On our return trip, travel time from Hotel Zebra, just beyond the Swiss Cheese Connection, to the Post Office took 1.75 hours.

As to the survey, first we began by mopping up the connection between HZ56 and KY466. Once that was complete, we moved to the scoped out lead that the initial explorers marked "Goes Ok" at KY467. The lead was sketched as a small crawl leading to a climb with two leads off of the dome (named "The Horrible Horta"). We surveyed this scooped passageway, climbing our way into the upper level along the chert layer. The climb, though not long, was extremely crumbly and precarious for that reason. At the top, after a modest room, the passageway became smaller though not tight. This is where the initial explorers stopped scooping and where our luck turned for the best. The upper level crawlway led to two pits, one small and climable, the other large and unclimbable (named "The 20lb out of Wedlock Awkward Baby Pit"). Both pits went to the same place, a large room with a beautiful collections of stalactites, ribbons, and flowstone (named "The Rite of Spring). Potential leads branched off in all directions, above, and below us. Sitting in virgin cave, with leads all around us, we revelled in the true excitement of Wind Cave exploration.

Continuing our survey, we pushed down a pit in the floor, carefully avoiding flowstone and into "grabby" middle level cave. The cave kept going and we kept surveying. We took our lunch in "The Borg Cube" and found a strange circular formation within a strange circular formation (we snapped a picture). Then we surveyed down another, deeper fissure, where our excitement momentarily waned as we discovered a KY582 station, to which we connected. We probably climbed near 100 feet of elevation change within the cave on a series of climb ups and climb downs. Pushing off "The Borg Cube" we found beautiful, delicate frostwork, clusters of which had become so big it had fallen over (named "The Gentlemen's Club"). This area began to look less pristine, and examining the map, I knew other KY survey was near, and sure enough, after a few more shots, we found KY588. The 1980's explorers had pushed some of these unsurveyed leads, but not very hard or carefully. Fortunately they didn't push them very far, and we snapped up some virgin cave with lots of potential for more.

Room Names:

"The Horrible Horta" (HZ62-HZ65) was named in reference to an original Star Trek episode where a creature makes caves by superheating and melting the rock as it moves through the underground. This climb up was extremely crumbly and annoying and it reminded Kali of this infamous Star Trek creature.

"The 20lb out of Wedlock Awkward Baby Pit" (HZ65) was named because one of our cave packs was incredibly heavy and awkward (too much water, a camera, and an unused deck of cards, sigh). We traded this pack from caver to caver during the trip, but it still caused significant grumbling, especially during climbs. This pit was christened in honor of this ill-fated pack.

"The Rite of Spring" (HZ67-HZ70) was named for the beautiful collection of dripstone formations, which reminded us of the dripping Spring rains. The Rite of Spring is also a refernce to an Igor Stravinsky Ballet premiered around 1915, at which during its world-premier, the audeience rioted at its strange visceral melodies. Later, The Rite of Spring would be used in Disney's "Fantasia".

"The Borg Cube" (HZ73) continues our Star Trek theme. This area was very cube-like in its survey and some of our light sources had a red spectrum, which looked eerily similar to members of the Borg from Star Trek the Next Generation. The Borg are aliens which seek to destroy or assimilate all inferior life forms (Humans, Vulcans, Bajori) Their spaceships are huge, hulking computer cubes.

"The Gentleman's Club" (HZ80) was named for the beautiful frostwork formations, some of which were growing out of a strange hump in the floor. The frostwork clusters grew so big that they had toppled over. It was definitely a "look but don't touch" atmosphere. A great trip with no incidents. A return to the Rite of Spring is being planned for September.

Report by: Chris Amidon

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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