Here’s my $0.02 addition to Ken’s trip report.

Rail Valley continues, but the real exciting potential comes after we complete the resurvey of the front of the cave. That hill has rather nice looking potential. I can promise some nice survey next trip, but the first two shots will be wet. Wet suits may be warranted. It’s going to be a fun cave and has potential to be a rather long cave! It was fair of Ken to call the trip, but I was still pretty bummed about the early exit.

Rail Valley Survey Stats:
Length: 74′
Depth: 6′
Rail Valley Entrance with Joel Johnson.
Photo by Dave Dugid

Saturday I was in the same cave as Ken, but party of a totally different group. I was privileged to survey with Brian and Stephanie who are always hilarious and fun to cave with. They continue to be a great help in surveying the occasionally awful but frequently rewarding Smyth county cave passage.

Our trip involved 3 different rope drops in different parts of the cave. The first was a nuisance drop of about 15’. After our survey of this area we left one lead with the sound of flowing water, but a rock hammer will be required to continue.
Me at the lip of the nuisance drop of Olympus Pit.
Photo by Brian Williams 

The remains of a former cave explorer; encountered in Olympus pit.
Photo by Brian Williams
The second survey area already had three unsurveyed stations set from the last trip which really helped get things started. We started down this passage then eventually handed the horizontal leads to the other team so we could drop the pit. It measured ~40’ deep. There is large passage on one side of the drop which will require a bolt climb to access. Brian tried to free climb into it without success. He was on belay, but at one point fell about 5′ directly onto Stephanie. Not one to give up, he kept trying until a large formation he’d slung easily broke off when he tried to weight it. Not good.
There is also a second stream that flows into this pit that also needs to be connected to surveyed cave.

Me at the top of the 40′ pit at the bottom of the cave.
Photo by Brian Williams
Finally, the third area was a ~25’ rope drop. It took us a long time to figure out how we were going to rig. The top of the drop is narrow which initially made us nervous about getting suck on the climb, we exited without much effort. We surveyed a few stations to the bottom of the drop but will need to survey the room. There are a couple of bolt climbing leads here, and a going downstream lead. It was here that we found the best part of my weekend. A bunch of small clean rimstone pools filled with salamander larvae. There must have been at least 30 salamanders. So beautiful!
Photo by Brian Williams

None of the remaining leads in this cave appear easy, but there is still a bunch of cave left to explore.
Rough current survey totals for SnoCone Cave:
Lenth: 3300’
Depth: 250’

Neither team got a ton of footage this weekend but we did add some good depth.

Than Sunday rolled around.
Dave and I wanted to continue caving. Everyone else either had to leave, or was still tired after what we’d done the last couple of days. We opted to start a new cave survey. With our main projects of the last year running out of easy work, we need to keep the survey queue filled. I’d prefer to avoid the shock we had after the Cold Sink survey finished at the same time as our other projects.

So, off to Beaver Creek Cave.
Not a lot to say yet. The survey Sunday was just Dave and myself, and we only had a few hours so it was a brief trip. Of everything we have going on, it’s probably the easiest to access, and the easiest to survey. The entrance is small, but I expect Ken will fit, and I also imagine Tanya will enjoy working this cave.
Beaver Creek survey totals:
Length: 156.7′

Depth: 26′
Entrance to Beaver Creek
Photo by Dave Dugid

Last Sunday Dave Duguid and I headed out to Horseshoe pit. We were there to finish the last good lead in that cave. It was exactly one year from the last time we visited this cave. Part of the reason it took so long to get back inside was due to all the other good caves we started surveying last summer. The other major reason was a lack of gear. Bolting gear to be more specific.

On our first trip there Brian Williams set a bolt by hand to get things started up to a nice looking high walking passage, but bolting this whole traverse by hand drill would have taken forever. One year later, having acquired all the hardware and electrons necessary to get this traverse done right we headed in just the two of us. We’d had a much larger group for the survey the day before, but most were not vertical and those who were left early to get back to NC. This left just two of us hauling in 300′ of rope along with everything else needed to make a bolting+survey trip happen. 100′ static for the traverse, 100′ dynamic for the belay, and 150 (way to much) for the Heinous Complainus Pit. This isn’t counting the rope needed for the 50′ entrance drop. In summary, a lot of heavy stuff.

Working the traverse was a challenge. It was my first time bolting a traverse and it was exciting. I set 5 bolts to get safely to the other side and another two at the end for a final solid anchor. Not a ton of bolts, but I was fighting mud much of the time. Once across, I got off belay and checked to see if we would have the great going lead we hoped for. Alas, as expected, shortly around a bend the passage abruptly ended. although it was open walking passage the floor was ankle deep wet mud and the passage only went for ~70′. We surveyed three shots for a grand total of 886′ in the included survey length. Derigging the dynamic line and retrieving all he quickdraws also required a fair amount of ingenuity and speleoacrobatics.

So why would I never send my friends to this passage? Well it’s not just because it went no where. Everything starting at the Heinous Complainus pit is not much fun. Lot’s of loose falling rock at the Complainus pit, gross nasty mud everywhere in that passage. On the traverse much of the material that looks like rock is just mud in disguise. Coming out we were exhausted.

This exhaustion was probably due to a multitude of factors including the fact that we’d had a full day of non-trivial survey the day before. Both Dave and I could have eaten and drunk more that day as well. I guess we were both trying to conserve a little weight. I wasn’t hungry at all, but when we stopped at subway afterward I devoured a footlong sub even though I’d intended to save half when I ordered it. I’ve decided my body was probably sending mixed signals due to the “fun” I’d just had. Still want to see the new passage I bolted into? We left a static line for the traverse, but if you ask me, don’t bother.

(Sorry for no pics this time. It was a beautiful day on the surface, but I didn’t want to haul any extra photo gear for this one. Matthew may have a good story about photo gear to share on this blog soon though.)

Participants: Jason Lachniet, Bill Grose, Emma Buchanan, Julie Slater, Carlin Kartchner
Bill, Carlin survey (BC): 475’ (mostly virgin?)
Leads killed: TP15A (both) and TP18A? (potentially still a lead at TP18A), one of two leads at E30.
Leads generated: none
The most exciting discovery of the day?
I have mixed feelings about cave re-survey. Part of the thrill of cave survey is the chance to document something no human has ever seen before, but if someone has already “surveyed” a cave that puts a slight damper on the motivation. Having heard that Perkins was being resurveyed I figured I’d join in on a trip because I knew getting into that cave often involves jumping through a few hoops. Knowing also that nearly 10 miles were mapped in the original survey had me skeptical there would be much low hanging fruit. Turns out I was wrong.
I drove up early Saturday morning partially in hopes of avoiding bad weather we’d had on Friday, but I still got more than I wanted. It was sunny, but between Greensboro and Winston-Salem there was a lot of ice, and I may have passed more accidents that morning than I’d passed in total in my life before this trip. Needless to say it was a bit unnerving, but soon after I’d decided I was going to call Jason and head home, things started clearing up, and after around Pilot mountain things cleared up so much so that most of Virginia seemed relatively dry with no snow or ice seen anywhere. Ultimately I met up safely with everyone, we piled our gear in Bill’s truck and we were off.
En route
The cave was as expected, very beautiful, and had a pretty friendly route for the 45 min it took us to get out to our leads. Once there we split into two small survey groups, but were working fairly near each other. My team was just two people consisting of myself sketching and doing foresights while Bill set stations and

read backsights. We started with a side lead that was basically just a debris blocked passage parallel to the 200’ crawl on the old trade route. This wasn’t too interesting until we made a voice connection with the other team. We found by moving a few rocks we were able to make a tight surveyed connection to the other team. Pretty cool.

After working that lead Bill and I returned to our main lead which had some beautiful gypsum crusted passage just below us that was perhaps 10’ wide and 15’ tall. We were excited the whole day about surveying it, but we never got to it. Bill explored a lead on the other side of the down climb into that canyon which he thought we’d finish in 3 stations. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…
Me sketching.
All it took was moving a couple rocks and Bills upper level crawl kept going. We ultimately made a couple loop closures and killed a few leads which we connected to in another part of the cave. It was pretty thrilling and it’s highly likely that most of that area was virgin. It was all low crawling, but never was it terribly uncomfortable. Most of the survey shots were easy to sight in both directions. We surveyed everything in our area leaving no new leads, but never did get to that canyon passage. Even though Bill and I still had the energy to keep going we had a relatively early call out time so we packed up and headed out around 9pm. This was fine as I was still tired the next day though that may just be because I forgot about the DST change when I set my alarm.

Frosty formations at the end of a side passage we surveyed.
After the trip everyone else who lived relatively close headed home while I headed to my favorite field house, Tanya’s. She’d opened her home for me and even made me breakfast in the morning which I thought was especially kind. It was nice to be able to hang out for a while one-on-one since I’m usually over there with a relatively large party. The downside to being there without other Trogs was that Bo could not be handed over to someone else so I spent a lot of time petting that demanding beast. Possibly the hardest thing I did all trip. It was a good weekend.
In summary, consider carpooling up to help on this project next time I go up. I think you’ll find surveying in Perkins worth your time. To find out how the other survey team did, a trip report is expected be posted to the Walker Mountain Grotto’s blog soon.

Antler helictites near station TP15A

All photos taken by Bill Grose and used with permission.

With landowner permission, the annual grotto clean-up this year was held at New River Cave. Usually we aim for something in Smyth county, but we had a hard time coming up with a good candidate over there this year, which is a good thing, so we instead headed off to New River Cave on a tip from Ken Walsh. We all drove up to the nearby Bat Ranch on Friday night and had a rather quiet night camping under the clouds and stars. Mike was asleep when many of us arrived and Ava, who was very helpful in making sure we were taken care of, was out of town.

The trip was pretty straight forward. Hike up steep hill, clean graffiti, pick up trash, have fun, get tired, turn around, exit cave, hike down steep hill. Am I forgetting anything? We had a nice turn out with 11 cavers coming, many of whom it was only their first or second time underground. Hopefully some of them will be back for more because caving is awesome. (Cave survey is especially cool ;p)

Ken explaining a bit about how fun caving is and how to make sure it doesn’t become no fun.

Ugliness on walls being removed by smiling faces.

The roof graffiti was a pain here, but the Price’s did a good job clearing it off.

Insert pun here


Pretties — with Mark for scale

Awkward family photos.  


Date: 14 Jun 2013-16 Jun 2013

I arrived after some prep time at Carlin’s place in Durham, with a much distressed soon to die water pump in the car. After the gear move to his car, we were off. The drive up pretty uneventful, smooth sailing and a good time to eat a sandwich. Next day, we got to the cave around 930-1000. The trip in was tight and muddier than I remembered. The path seemed longer, for some reason. We got in and Carlin lead off to get some sketches while I caught up. This trip was a lot harder than I wanted it to be. Once at recovery junction, we made some plans to traverse a few points on the left, getting cross section sketches along the way. The sketching did not take long, just about 10-15 min, I assume. When done, it was back to recovery junction and off to the pit traverse. Across that, and a few squeezes later, we ran headlong into more mud. It made the slopes in there a whole lot tougher to climb. At one point, I found it easier to rely on my mechanics skills to scoot myself up the slope by hanging on the ceiling. My choice in packs for my gear at this point was becoming a pain in the… At any rate, it was the death of that one on the way out. The path onward was one full of surprises. I had some trouble due in large part to no traction from my boots. But hey that happens. The points that were needed for surveying will still have to wait until someone else does them. When there at the critical junctions, there was a lot more mud and it was tight, Carlin opted not to press on, I volunteered being there and all. But we passed on them due to the conditions of the cave. I think that was the wiser choice. We did have some fun on the way out at the section now dubiously titled Muddy Flags, all puns intended. The giant slide was the best, and the quickest way down. It got a little scary, truth be told.The next week, my ribs quit hurting about Wednesday. In closing all in all a good trip, scary at times. I’ll be ready for the next non-Cold Sink trip just as soon as I get new boots and a good gear pack, because confidentially this one was ridiculous. Sunday—That for me was Water pump Showdown. Nothing a mechanically inclined tech can’t handle. Job started about at 1500 completed 1820..No worries, just sweat and pain on sore ribs. A few cuts and a sunburn or two, nothing major, really. Just a well placed oh S*** in traffic when the pump died from being jammed. So far, no leaks.

-Martin G.

Going into this weekend I was stoked. I
had noted 14 potential surveyors, 12 of which I considered committed
by the time we were driving to Marion. I was stunned when all 14 showed up! With that
number I was essentially forced to make 4 survey teams surpassing my
long standing goal of 3 teams in the cave. Everyone was pretty
timely, the biggest delay coming from my explaining to all the teams
who they were going to work with, and what leads they were going to
work on. Lesson learned. Let’s hope I have that challenge of
coordinating lots of surveyors again many times in the future.
Because there were so many of us we
staggered teams going into the cave . Early on Jason Schomo had a
zipper malfunction which delayed us a bit, but we otherwise made very
good time. The conditions in the early part of the cave were the
driest they’ve been since the first survey trip. At that time we only traveled a
short distance into the main crawls of the cave. These conditions made moving
quicker and easier not only because the mud did less to impede us,
but it seemed the mud balls we’d rolled pushing through the crawls on
previous trips served like ball bearings as we slid along the floor.
If anyone was bothered by the crawls on this trip, I didn’t hear it.
Okay, maybe Ken complained, but that doesn’t count. Mark Daughtridge actually commented multiple times that the crawls were much nicer
than he expected, suggesting they were much nicer what we went through
on our Worley’s survey trip back in November.
We didn’t have a long list of leads for
the cave, but we had enough for each group. Each team started in
their respective section, but the teams were never far from each
other. My team started with the two vertical leads we left last time.
The first one didn’t go anywhere, but shockingly the second did. My
team ended up getting over 100′ down there. As we neared completion of our survey of this level we felt we
were close to known walking passage so we sent Jacob out to look for
the connection. We made the handshake connection, but Jacob never
returned. Instead he choose to spend the time chatting with another team. Dave
and I were a bit annoyed by this, but it turns out that that nice
walking passage we’d left them with ended fairly abruptly after 6
stations. When Dave and I returned to the group after wrangling with the
short yet quite bothersome drop, we had a few snacks, and rallied
the troops to seek out the other teams.
Very odd striations on the wall down here. Guesses on how they got there? (click image to enlarge)

When we found Dave Sockey’s team, they
were just finishing up the survey of their passage. Knowing the final team had the most promising continuing lead, I  led everyone toward where they were located. When I finally
reached them after a surprisingly long descent, I was told they had
two more stations and then they’d be done.
I was shocked.
This meant there were no more
non-digging leads left. It was still afternoon at this point, so a
few people poked at some of the plugged passages we’d encountered,
but found nothing. Fully expecting to have a few more CS trips to
line up I was left with a confused empty feeling. We did some rough
estimates as this point and realized we were going to be just shy of
my goal of mapping a cave over a mile long. My team was the last team
out, and I moved a bit slower than I did on the way in. I’d spent a
lot of time in the cave and I felt a bit like I was saying goodbye.
I guess now we just need to find the next big one. 
Now we’re never going to get out!
A quiet gathering under the oculus
If you missed this last real CS survey,
but still want to get into the cave, I’d like to plan another trip to
get some final clean-up data for the map. Let me know when would work
best for you.
Some statistics for the cave as we now know it:
Included survey length = 5103.6 Feet
Higest station = 31.9 Feet above
entrance station
Lowest Station = -110.7 Feet below
entrance station
Cave Depth = 142.6 Feet
A cave adapted millipede that was over an inch long.

It’s been more than a week since the last CS trip and I’m still riding high. The prospect of running a survey project in an ‘unknown’ cave starting from zero feet that pulls in over a mile of surveyed cave is just too exciting. On this last trip we pulled off 1017.2 feet surveyed. I tried to plan far in advance to build interest in this trip, but somehow I still managed to only pull out two teams. I’d emailed with Brian Williams a few days before the trip convinced we still could pull off three teams, but there were a few late bail outs which left us with only six surveyors. I was not too concerned though. The weather was looking good, and we had a good set of experience participating in the trip so I had high hopes we’d make good use of the weekend. I was not expecting what we found.

After the last trip I knew the cave continued but we had a number of leads to knock off before we could get started on the lead which had potential to extend the total cave length. My first goal was a nagging lead below the crawlway to heaven. On the last trip I finally got around to poking my head into this often passed lead and in so doing I decided the passage was in need of surveying. It would be a small two man survey, but I felt it needed further investigation. There was also a pit discovered on that trip which had an inaccessible bottom. We’ve done a good job of cleaning up our leads as we go so these got first priority.

With that small crawl in mind for this trip I divided our six cavers into the following teams. Myself, Jacob Jackson and Buford Pruitt on survey group ‘N’ (aka the Ninnies), and Ken Walsh, Brian Williams, and Stephanie Petri in survey group ‘M’ (aka the Monkeys). Stephanie had come with Brian and was new to surveying so I wanted to keep them together with someone who’d had some experience in the cave making Ken a natural choice. Of those signed up I figured Jacob was probably the most masochistic and likely the only one willing to help inspect the low crawl, so he ended up on my team. Surprisingly it took very little begging for me to get his assistance. Unfortunately Jacob was also the only other person on the trip who’d been past the pencil junction which meant the monkeys only had a vague idea where they were going. I really should have given them a copy of the working map.

When we arrived at the cave on Saturday morning around 10am, the monkeys headed in first followed by the ninnies. In the first room we noticed a bunch of harvestmen gathering on the ceiling, some cave crickets, and a small cave salamander. I even managed to convince the salamander to crawl up onto my hand for a brief moment. I might have damaged him before saying hello had Jacob not warned me of his location. He seemed mostly ungrateful if not perturbed by our luminous presence so we crawled on. We continued down the passage eventually reaching our starting point where we were blessed to hear Stephanie and Ken still working their way through the crawlway past the crawlway to heaven. (We really should name that passage. As it really is considered separate from the crawlway to heaven. Any suggestions? I think ‘Pergatory’ might fit nicely.) While we surveyed Buford worked on creating profile sketches of the cave since there was no room for a third where Jacob and I would be working.  

That low crawl was boring, but it still has a soupy wet tight lead at the end of it. If the cave is ever really dry it would be cool if someone poked their head down it, but I’d suggest making the attempt as a group of two so there can be a backup to extricate the brave if they get stuck. There are a number of down sloping hard rock pinches on that side of the cave so I assume this will probably end the same. For this reason I don’t feel this is a lead that really needs much more pushing.

When we finished that section of survey we joined back up with Buford to eventually stop at the traverse pit to take some exact measurements of the pit. We measured 18’ from the lip just as we’d estimated, and 15’ from the lip of the nearby pit, a few feet deeper than originally thought. We then cut the excess rope we’d stashed at the traverse, and stuffed it into an extra pack I’d carried. Jacob, ever the masochist, volunteered to hauled it to the delay chamber for us. I would have hauled the rope, (really I would have) but from this point I was the only one carrying my vertical gear as the others would leave theirs behind at the traverse pit.

We worked our way through the  cave eventually arriving at the delay chamber where we would again be slowed down. We bumped into Ken’s group who’d surveyed a crawl back to that room while we rigged to drop into the nearby chimney and subsequent pit. We took a while to find something solid to rig to for the unexplored drop, but once we did I was on rope and peering down into a a 6’x8’pit that was 11’ deep from the lip. It was about what I’d expected having thrown a few rocks down the slopey squeeze to get to it. My only hope was for the possibility of a multi-drop, but the bottom of the pit drained out in a small uninteresting looking hole. Bummer. The one novel thing we did here worth mentioning is the way we protected to rope over the sharp rocks the rope must cross for the drop. Buford’s volunteered on of his external knee pads to pad the rope which we attached to the rope using a small prusik I always carry with me on my harness. It worked out very well.

Eventually, we escaped that boring lead to find the monkeys now working their way through the crawing lead at what was then the back of the cave. With no real leads to survey in the cave before that point, I broke out some line plots of the profile and had my team start sketching profiles. Ken suggested that we finish their next couple of crawl survey shots so they could start in the subsequent walking passage, but I declined thinking our time would be better spent working on profile sketches. Boy was that a silly decision. 

Giving Jacob, Buford and myself a different section to work on we split up heading back in the direction of the cave to work on profiles for the already surveyed passage. I finished before the other two and decided to dance off to where Ken, Stephanie and Brian were at. When I got there the whole group was giggling and generally acting sillier that they had been earlier in the day. It was easy to see why. They’d gotten into walking passage with great leads running off in multiple directions. Apparently Brian had scooped a little bit so I figured I could  look into what he saw so I ducked around the corner and started walking around. There was nice cave every where! It didn’t take long before Ken shouted at me for scooping so I easily concluded I needed some man power to back me up. I literally raced back through the crawls telling both Jacob and Buford to drop their sketches because they we’re going to love what we’d found. If I’d taken more than just a couple steps into that passage on the last trip I probably wouldn’t have been patient enough to wait till October to get the next trip in.
When we finally were established surveying things went rather smoothly. We hadn’t made the breakthrough until 7pm, but with that discovery, both teams seemed happy to keep surveying for another few hours. Ken worked until he got cross eye’d from trying to do plan and profile sketches while working in larger cave passage. I kept my team going after that team left so we could finish surveying a loop we’d started and by that point I felt as though I was going to get a headache. I was making silly mistakes in the book so I needed to stop. We took about 1hour 15min to exit the cave and got back to the cars around 1am with a fresh coat of frost forming on the ground. We got back to Tanya’s around 2am and stayed up for another 1.5 hours eating soup and talking about our new discoveries. I was on cloud 9. 

The next day we got to a slow start and had breakfast at the golf clubhouse near Tanya’s house around 10:30 am. The service was the best I’d experienced in the county, so we’ll certainly return. We didn’t feel much like caving, but did do some ridgewalking trying again to find that elusive second entrance to CS, and to try following up on a blowing lead Tanya had on the edge of the county. We didn’t find anything that day, but the weather was great, the sky was clear and the leaves were changing on many of the trees. It’d be hard to find a nicer day to wander around outside. 

Early on in this project I gave myself two goals as motivation to help the project move forward. Get three teams working the cave on a single survey day, and survey over 1000’ on a given weekend. We just barely eeked out the 1000’ goal, but I’d still hope to push for three teams at some point. I’m guessing the temptation of virgin walking passage might be a nice hook when advertising the next trip. For a while now I’ve thought it would be really cool to explore a “new” cave from station A0 to something longer than a mile. There is now 4318.5 feet in the included survey length, andd with the leads we left behind I’m fully expecting we’re going to achieve that large goal. Hopefully on the next trip!

This picture could use 100 captions, but I think it most important to note there are no footprints past the last station!

For another perspective on the trip see Buford’s trip report from the weekend at his blog

Went to the TAG Fall Cave-In last week and had an amazing time. 100’+ drops everyday, awesome old friends, super cool new friends. Even though my TAG daddy is a bit upset with me now (sorry, inside story) the long weekend was well worth the drive. I was a bit wishy washy about going considering the drive, and the lack of plans, but those I cave with down there have got it together. I came back from the trip refreshed and super jazzed about caving again. Arriving home from the trip at 2am early Monday morning didn’t make working that day so cool, but the trip was totally worth it. 

Considering I’ll have a real exploration trip to write up next week after running the next Cold Sink survey, I’m going to keep my text to a minimum. If you want more details, come to the next grotto meeting. 🙂
Russels cave. Fun wet multidrop cave.
Bolts are foolishly placed  so we diverted the water on this drop.
Tabbatha Cavendish frogging out of the bottom of Lost Canyon Cave
Alan Grosse in some large popcorn.
Did anyone sleep last night?
To see more pictures from this trip go to:

Given only two weeks notice on the heels of convention and a well attended grotto trip, led to limited interest in the fifth trip to Cold Sink since our survey began last November. I had a few people on the fence for this trip and ultimately most everyone backed out leaving only myself, Jacob Jackson, and Jason Schomo. This would make it the first Cold Sink trip that didn’t field two teams. Lucky for us, we got the easy survey.

As seems usual we had a slower start to the day than I would have liked; both in getting to and getting started once in the cave. I blame the slow start partially on staying up so late with Tanya. There is always way too much to talk about when visiting her. When we finally got to the cave I was slow in trying to analyze how much water had been in there since our last visit. At the cave, bent over plants and debris on the fence showed signs of recent high water. There was also evidence that significant water had been flowing in the first series of low crawls. Later at the traverse pit there was foam about a third of the way up the pit also deposited by recent waters. Also, the stations in the lead below the crawl way to heaven had unfortunately been washed further into the cave. 

Because we were such a small group I decided this was my time to check that unfinished lead early in the cave. There was a gravel pile built up behind the log that was once a survey station, so I spent a fair amount of time digging it out so I could fit through. Once through a tight spot I got into a space that allowed plenty of room to turn around. There was another low squeeze that opened into another small room which had water flowing through it. Up stream looks like a hopeless dig, but downstream continues tight in more passage like what I’d just pushed through. The big difference was the mud downsteam was highly water saturated, with the stream disappearing into the mud. After sitting in mud which enveloped me, chilling my butt and thighs I concluded the passage was something to save for a dryer day. Like the next trip perhaps. 

After I worked my way back to the base of the crawl way to heaven I took some time to catch my breath and ponder about the wisdom of our decision to cave that day. The weather forecast looked safe, but there was still a 30% chance of light rain last I checked and the surface ground appeared super saturated. I began to wonder if I got such a large turnout on this trip because bad things were fated for us. After rolling the thought around in my head I made the decision to do the hardest part of the cave and re-think our plan after arriving at the recovery junction. Of course once we got there I decided to keep caving.

Upon making it back to the room where the K survey had finished, our first objective was the side lead with a drop I thought was climbable. We used Jacob’s ~50′? of webbing as a handline rigged far back from the drop and did the 14′ down climb into a small room just below a flowstone cascade. Off this room we left another lead with a pit that had a narrow down sloping entry which prevented us from seeing the bottom. It didn’t sound deep, maybe 10′-15′, but it also appeared too wide to be climbable. I think I’m going to want vertical gear to check the bottom of this one.

Once back in the main room we had two choices to pursue. A high lead that was unvisited, and a low lead Robbie had crawled into on the previous trip reporting it went. We opted for the high lead. It was certainly the easier choice. It was easy to navigate and opened into larger passage. In this passage we found what we were calling an ‘ax’, but a later internet search would more accurately describe it as a mattock tiller. The mattock had certainly seen better days and we would now consider it part of the cave.

The lines below the mattock appear to be a fungal growth. The black staining is also from the mattock.

 It was here that Jason and Jacob tried to give me a 62′ shot, but I made them cut it in half so we could have a good tie in for the lower crawl passage we’d passed. Near the end of our survey for the day, we got into a larger room which seemed to stop our progress. For a few minutes we walked around stunned to think we were at the end of the cave. In one location there is a depression in the floor that certainly drains water, but the cave just seemed to stop. There was a small lead under the area we climbed on to get to the floor, but it didn’t look too interesting on the first pass. Since we seemed to be running out of options I decided to check it again. I did the crawl and it opened up into another room. It goes! I walked into it about 20′ then turned around to save further discovery to those who earn it through survey. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera into the new section of cave. I guess you’re going to need to come on the next survey trip to see what it looks like.

Since we’d planned to return to the Triangle that same evening, we decided to leave the cave earlier than any of us really seemed ready for. That day we set 15 survey stations with an average of 20′ per shot giving it the longest average shot length of any previous team. This wasn’t standard Cold Sink survey as we didn’t survey in a single crawl!

I need to thank Jacob and Jason for coming on the trip. This was Jacob’s second survey trip, his second trip into Cold Sink, and his first time setting stations. He did a great job! Jason is new to the caving, but was also a great asset to the team. I started the day making bets against the accuracy of their first shot because it had a steep angle, but their compass readings matched on the first try! I hope they are both around to continue caving with us for a long time.

Seen this shot before?

The plants near the cave entrance we’re higher than our heads requiring some serious bushwhacking.
Sadly, the cow skull guarding the entrance had vanished…

…. so we replaced it with an alternative.

Jason in the room we started our survey from currently referred to as the delay chamber.

A side passage off the delay chamber.
In the milk jug room on the way out of the cave.

A side passage off the milk jug room.

Did we have fun? Well, I did.

Finally, Ava should know that on the way out we saw a cave salamander at the bottom of the wedgie slide (crawl way to heaven). For a creature that never appears to manage more than a slow crawl, he was amazingly fast as I coerced him to leave the drop zone.

Erata: Used my new disto for the first time on this trip. Very nice. Also, as a word of caution there might be chupacabras in the cave now.

Tanya’s palace
-Saturday- Breakfast at Tanya’s consisting of whole wheat pancakes
w/ blueberrys, fresh fruit, sausage, and eggs. Snacks during the day.
Dinner was eating out for some. Those who stayed in the cave were
privy to pizza hut ordered for us by the early departers. Sunday,
more of the same breakfast from yesterday only this time there were
Strawberrys rather than blue
first person in CS: 10:30 am
last person out: 12:30 am — 14 hour trip
survey stats: 108.4’, 15 shots, avg length: 7.2’
survey stats: 824.9’, 48 shots, avg length: 17.2’
cave length: 2086’
cave stats: 3019.3’, 216 shots, avg length: 14’
Duguid who has been on all the CS surveys has been polishing up his
map of Rowland Creek cave in Smyth Co., and at 3172’ surveyed, his
project is about to be surpassed in length!

survey summary:
survey consisted of Dave Duguid, Martin Groenewegen, Lisa Lorenzin,
and Mike Broome. They entered the cave after the K survey to prevent
a bottle neck at the crawlway to heaven. There primary goal was to
work a couple digs and if time permitted, survey another lead we knew
went. The first, and most exciting dig had great air last time, so
Dave was hungry to enter it. We’d recruited Lisa specifically to
ensure we could pass the constriction. Fortunately, the dig was much
easier than expected. It only required moving a rock on the floor and
everyone could get through. Unfortunately, it rapidly ended in a
breakdown pile, so it was just sketched, and not surveyed. The second
dig was in soft dirt that Martin went to town on, but it quickly
ended in a small formation choke.

attacking the digs they went to survey a lead from two trips ago
which knowing how it begun, was expected to be a challenge. In 15
shots, they surveyed 108.4ft, averaging 7.2 ft per shot. Yuck. At
least they got most everything done out there. There is a low wet
stream lead back there, but it sounds grim if even doable. Based on
Dave’s description on that part of the cave I’m considering all
leads out there as checked.

the survey Mike and Lisa headed out of the cave. They were clear
before entering the cave that they wanted to leave early, and they
had achieved all the objectives they were given. Unfortunatly, they
missed out on seeing the more exciting part of CS where the K survey
team was making the cave grow.

survey summary:
survey was the first team to enter the cave. The team consisted of
myself, Matthew Lubin, and Robbie Spiegel. Matthew was new to
surveying, but after taking a few stations to figure out how
everything worked, his skills improved. After setting a more
permanent station at the traverse,  started surveying in the
pencil room. The room was so named when on the last trip Brian
declared it so, sacrificing a pencil for use as the survey station
there. The passage along the K survey continued nearly directly
westward the entire time. It took us a while, but after a couple
hours of survey time we arrived in the larger room Dave and Brian had
scooped into last time. We’re dubbing this room the Milk Jug room
based for the old 1Gal milk jug lodged in the rocks in the center of
the room.

entering the room, we surveyed a left had passage with a ~15’
flowstone fall. I climbed to the top, rigged a piece of webbing, and
had the others climb up, following after me. The floor everywhere was
pretty fragile, and Robbie begged off taking back sights at the last
station for fear he’d damage things too much. The first section of
the room had a number of dry rimstone pools. Half of the room had a
black possibly manganese floor which recorded just about every boot
print placed on it. The back section of the room had a short
flowstone column coming from a hole in the ceiling. The calcite on it
was white, as was the floor around it. We took 3 survey shots up
there confirmed things went no further, then carefully exited pulling
the webbing with us.

in the Milk Jug room we surveyed towards a wet, decorated lead that
we concluded was only worth pushing if someone was ready to get very
wet. Then we ducked down and continued in the remaining lead which
looked like the main passage. We surveyed a few shots down this way
before we heard Dave calling out for us. He’d come with Martin to
see how we were doing. Matthew was ready to leave, so he headed out
with Martin, and Dave stayed with us to survey for a few more hours.
The second shot taken with Dave was 46’ long. Yeh-haw! The passage
here was pretty straight forward and easy to survey. There were a
couple side shots, but generally everything continued west. We ended
in a couple rooms, larger than anything found earlier in the cave.
There we left 3 good leads. One is a pit/downclimb section that
sounds wet, a high tunnel above this lower lead that to me looks like
a mine tunnel, and lead that is back to hands and knees and looks
like the primary continuation. Exciting stuff for another day.

enough, soon after Dave found us the cave started to feel like
Hancock cave. Even if the caves do not connect, it seems like we’re
at least in the same rock unit now. Having walked the surface between
the caves, the valley between them seems unlikely to be crossed, but
If the cave continues west for a few more trips, a Hancock connection
may begin to be less of a joke. The cave grew by a lot this trip. A
big thanks to everyone who has helped survey this cave so far. At
3000+ feet, it feels like a real cave now. 

More pics from the weekend are found here.

A video to give a vague size of the final room is here.

Robbie pondering his existence while posing for the classic entrance shot.
A bit greener than on past trips.

A bit of flowstone in the large room at the end of the known cave.