Participants: Jim Nepstad, Jim Pisarowicz
Duration of Trip: 7 hours
New Cave Surveyed: none
On August 11, 1986, Jim Nepstad and I decided to enter Wind Cave via the Blowhole entrance. Since this route was established (October 1984) we had heard many stories about how terrible this route was into the cave. The passages were reported to be incredibly tight and that for all practical purposes this was not a usable entrance into Wind Cave.
As neither of us had been into the Blowhole and considering the stories we had heard about this entrance we figured about 4 hours would be required to route find and make our way down to the larger passages that the Blowhole route eventually connected.
To our surprise the Blowhole route was not as terrible as we were lead to believe. The entire route is crawling with occasional spots where one can sit up in and a couple of areas where it is possible to stand. Most of the crawling is upper level cave, fairly smooth or on floors of broken chert and small breakdown. In only two spots would I call the passages very tight and both of these are fairly short. Any person who had caved to any extent should consider this route a viable one into Wind Cave.
Travel time into Santa's Frosted Forest, including route finding, looking at incredible anthrodites and logomites (snurds) was only two hours. Just to see what the travel time would be after we knew the route we timed ourselves on the way out to the surface. From Santa's Frosted Forest to the surface (uphill most of the way) took 50 minutes. This route, as it stands, should be considered a usable entrance into Wind Cave.
There are several implications of this trip into Wind Cave via the Blowhole:
- The Blowhole entrance needs to be gated. Within an hour a caver could be back into some of the most delicate and sensitive areas of Wind Cave. Some of the anthrodites seen were 30-40 cm across. These were some of the largest anthrodites either of us had ever seen. The number of logomites (snurds) was likewise incredible. In one area alone probably 50 were observed, some perhaps 50 cm or more tall. The popcorn was some of the best in the cave.
- Gate construction should be relatively easy as the passages were fairly small. A simple bar across a passage would provide an excellent gate. Consideration must be given to wildlife in this part of the cave. The entire crawl had many insects including what appeared to be cave adapted crickets. A salamander was seen as far into the cave as B20. The gate should take the biota into consideration.
- On occasion it has been suggested that a new entrance could be dug into Wind Cave to provide an "easy" access into the northwestern part of Wind Cave. This is really not necessary considering that the Blowhole route should be sufficient to gain entry into this part of the cave. Fifty minutes of crawling (probably less once the route has been traveled several times) should not deter most active cavers considering the rewards that this effort brings. The Blowhole route should be considered the route into the northwest part of Wind Cave.
- Although the Blowhole route can be used by explorers to gain entry to the northwest part of Wind Cave, it could not be used as an evacuation route in case of an injury. In the event of such an emergency; then, and only then, should the previously suggested "new entrance" be dug into the cave. As this point is already radio located onto the surface and if an evacuation should be required an entrance could be quickly dug.
Report by: Jim Pisarowicz