In attendance (via Zoom): Andre, Bram, Carlin, Elise, Emily, Janell, Joanna, Kelly, Ken, Lee, Lisa, Martin, Mike B., Peter, Taylor, Zeke

There was a lot of discussion here, but I didn’t take notes. As I recall, it ranged from Lisa’s bad knitting to Andre’s illicit climbing locations to Zeke’s unusual headwear (ran out of tinfoil).


Our treasurer, Mike, reported on our finances. We collected dues for 23 members last year. We already have 21 paid members for 2021. To pay your dues, visit or contact Mike at


Each office had exactly one nominee, so we voted to accept the slate as a whole. Our 2021 officers are:

  • Chair: “Zeke” Van Fossen
  • Vice-Chair: Taylor Tibbs
  • Secretary: Ken Walsh
  • Treasurer: Mike Broome
  • Webmaster: Elise Sanderson

Trip Report

Bram spent a week in TAG doing lots of rappelling. He shared some really nice photos.


In attendance: Mike B., Taylor, Ken, Zane, Lisa, Ann, Diana, Peter, Skylar, Emily, Lee


We will send out a Doodle poll before the November meeting to try to nail down a day for the December holiday Zoom party/meeting.

Pay your dues so that Mike B. can afford to send our grotto donations.

Some of the NSS websites will be changing as they switch over to … yeah, I dunno, something. Just be patient if you encounter broken links and what not.


Skylar presented Survival of the Fattest, a program about the science of White Nose Syndrome. Don’t disturb hibernating bats; she mentioned that bats wake up slowly, so just because you don’t see them stirring doesn’t mean they won’t as soon as you walk away. Also, maybe don’t eat the cave-aged cheese.

Knot of the Month: Prusik

Carabiner of the Month: Bent Gate Carabiner

Trip Reports

Michael, Elise, Michelle, and Elena picked up trash outside the entrance of Hancock Cave. Using river rocks, Ken and Emily built a couple dozen steps leading up the hillside along the new trail to the entrance.

Skylar went to New River Cave. There were cave goats!


In attendance and fun hats: Michael M., Emily, Ken, Mark, Mike B., Bram, Skylar, Elise, Taylor, Diana, Janell


  • Nikki Fox was looking for nice photos of Hancock Cave for the WVCC website (
  • Feel free to pay your dues via the PayPal link on our website. Mark Little’s name shows up on the receipt, but the funds really go to the TriTrogs.
  • According to Michael M., Dec. 12 is an NSS HQ work day. If you’re interested in heading down to cave country (in Alabama) and doing some hard labor, he might be going.
  • Got any ideas for a TriTrogs holiday pandemic party?


Mike Broome presented Vertical Techniques, a Brief Overview of Vertical Caving and SRT. For related information, check out the tome On Rope: North American Vertical Rope Techniques and the NSS Vertical Section website.

Carabiner of the Month: Modified D Carabiner


In attendance (remotely): Michael M., Elise, Ken, Lee, Taylor, Mark, Janell, Rob, Mike B., Diana, Skylar, Elana, Emily, Lisa
Attendees were encouraged to show off their favorite bat items. These included (in no particular order) dresses, a bandana, masks, a towel, a headband, a coaster, a magnet, a bumper sticker, a stuffed animal

Old Business

  • The decision to donate $200 to Bat Conservation Intl was approved.
  • Mike will send out a check for our previously approved donation for Cyclops Cave.
  • If you need to know whether you’ve paid your 2020 dues, contact Mike B. Dues pay for caving-related stuff.

Program – Crayfish

a.k.a. Crawfish, a.k.a. Cave Lobster
Presented by Taylor

New Business

  • Programs: Contact Taylor if you have a particular topic you want to hear about, or if you’d like to present a program. Diana suggests incorporating online material from the NSS convention into a future program.
  • Elise is working on a new logo for the grotto and is open to ideas.
  • Knot of the Month: figure 8, follow-through and on a bight
  • Carabiner of the Month: standard D carabiner

Trip Reports

Janell, Bram, Tanner, Mike, and Lisa drove up to Butler Cave. J, B, and M went caving first, to the historic section. Then B, T, M, and L went back in for two more hours to the Moon Room etc. Everybody wore masks in the cave with varying degrees of success due to fogging glasses. While Mike stopped to look at the map, Janell pulled out a book to read. Presumably “How to Survive Underground on the Stuff in Mike’s Pack” (Spoiler alert: The first step is burning the map for heat).

Skylar had to shut herself in her closet for a recent recording for Science Friday, and that was the closest she’d gotten to caving in months.

In attendance (remotely):
Taylor, Michael M., Mike B., Elise, Emily


  • Donations
    • Emily has started researching bat-related organizations for the grotto to donate to this year. Bat Conservation International may be the winner.
    • Mike B. has not yet sent the donation to SCCi for Cyclops Cave.
  • Programs
    • Taylor should be able to give her presentation on crayfish in August
    • Ken is willing to do a program on cartography software
    • Mike and Lisa will try a vertical demonstration program
  • Taylor has figured out how to share her screen and how to ditch zoom meetings. She practiced both with us.
  • Elise can give a presentation about the NSS diversity committee.
  • Thing-of-the-Month
    • Michael M. will kick off each meeting by featuring a different carabiner.
    • Elise will follow up with a different knot each month.
  • Logo
    • Elise wants to crowd source options for the TriTrogs logo she’s creating.
    • Michael M. wants to hide a t-rex in it, which sounds ridiculous, but then he showed us the logo for Catawba Brewing Company.
When inverted, the mountains in the logo form the states of North and South Carolina.


In attendance (remotely): Michael M., Taylor, Emily, Carlin et al., Mike B., Elise, Ken, Zeke, Diana, Lee, Rob, Martin, Lauren, Mark
Attendees were encouraged to wear their favorite helmets. Someone forgot to specify caving helmets.


  • Pay your yearly dues. Dues are $7.50 for individuals ($11 for families) through the end of the year. Payment via PayPal is preferable.
  • The NSS virtual convention can be viewed by anyone for free. Visit or the NSS YouTube channel.
  • Check the TriTrogs Google calendar for upcoming cancellations. As always, the calendar can be found on the home page. In short, all mass in-person events have been cancelled or postponed.

Trip Reports Whaaaat

Elise took the train to Pennsylvania to go caving with friends there. As guides at Laurel Caverns, they have access to the otherwise closed cave. Laurel Caverns claims to be the state’s largest cave, but that’s not enough, so they spent four hours digging for more.

Michael M. reports signs of traffic in and around Hancock Cave. He found some trash as far inside as the Funnel Tunnel, and shoelaces tied together leading down the Breakdown Staircase (I have so many questions). He also noticed evidence of trail upheaval outside, leading to the entrance.

Michael has been doing some TAG (Tennessee-Alabama-Georgia) caving.

Martin ventured under his house a few times. Rob watched a cat come down out of a tree.

Upcoming Trips?

Ken says the map of Big Sink Cave is nearly finished. He thinks maybe one more short trip is needed.

Program – Caving and COVID-19

Without encouraging or discouraging the act of caving during this pandemic, Michael M. pulled together some current information from the websites of the states that most often host our caving trips. We also briefly discussed the following considerations.

  • travel and carpooling
  • caving injuries and response resources
  • transmission from humans to cave-dwelling species
  • campsites and lodging
  • state and local mandates
  • private landowner and conservancy guidelines
  • restrictions on travel and on gathering sizes
  • importance of avoiding cave closures

Part I (June 29, 2020)

In (virtual) attendance: Michael M., Taylor, Mike B., Emily

  • Meetings
    • We plan to meet virtually for at least the next few months.
    • We agreed that Zoom is the most accessible platform. Taylor has an account that won’t limit us to 40 minutes.
    • Themes and costumes and general silliness
    • Virtual trip reports can use uploaded photos and maps
    • Could be nice to share meetings with other grottoes
    • Next grotto meeting program: Discussion of caving (or not) during a pandemic
  • Annual Grotto Trip
    • cancelled/postponed indefinitely
    • Michael M. to send email notice [Done]
  • Inclusiveness Message – see Part II
  • NSS Convention is virtual (and free) July 27-31

Part II (July 8, 2020)

In (virtual) attendance: Michael M., Taylor, Mike B., Elise, Emily, Mark D.

  • Inclusiveness discussion
    • Affordability. Cost of gear, driving may be a prohibitive factor. May restructure FAQ page to emphasize loaner gear availability. May also waive wear-and-tear fee in some circumstances.
    • Brief positive inclusiveness statement on website, Facebook page. Elise will draft and share with officers.
    • Discussion of recruiting and meeting attendance
    • Emily will share our existing bylaws with other officers [Done]
  • Boy Scouts – Michael wrote a response to the Boy Scouts’ request for cave guide contact names.
  • Agree to grotto donation to bat research, with regards to COVID. Emily will make list of possible causes.
  • Decon
    • Need to combine WNS decon with COVID-19 decon procedures?
    • Michael will obtain resealable bags and “sterilized” labels for our loaner gear.
    • Possibility of doing decon procedures at monthly meetings?
  • Supplemental outdoor (in-person) meetings. Before it starts getting dark early.
  • Next officers’ meeting: August 5 at 7:30.

In attendance

Michael McBride, Chair
Taylor Tibbs, Vice Chair
Elise Sanderson, Webmaster
Mike Broome, Treasurer
Emily Graham, Secretary

Old Business

  • Officers unanimously agreed that the grotto will donate $200 to Cyclops Cave
  • Elise updated the email addresses on the Contact Us page
  • Emily has completed the NSS IO report (as of 2/25)

New Business

Program Ideas

We discussed program ideas for the year. Taylor has created a sign-up sheet at the following link. Those interested in giving presentations can select which month they prefer.


This year the grotto will be offering an incentive for participation. Prize tbd. Point system as follows:

  • 1 pt for a written trip report
  • 1 pt for participation in a survey trip
  • 2 pts for leading a beginner trip
  • 3 pts for giving a meeting presentation

Logo Contest

Stay tuned. Official announcement at the regular February meeting.

Annual Grotto Trip

This year’s annual family-friendly grotto trip will be August 15-16. Destination tbd.

Conservation Projects

In addition to the Hancock Cave trail construction, Michael McBride suggested a trip to the NSS Headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama to do whatever volunteer work is needed. Camping and caving are available onsite and very nearly onsite.

When the request came from James River Grotto for people who were willing to lead trips in Smyth County, I (eventually) stepped up to lead a trip to Hancock Cave. Why Hancock? First, I know my route through the cave. Second, with the help of some other TriTrogs, I’m leading a group of Girl Scouts there in a couple weeks and didn’t mind an opportunity to check on the condition of the entrance.

Due to a communication breakdown, Hancock wasn’t among the signup sheets that were put out at 10pm Friday night. I was kind of bummed, but I knew there were enough TriTrogs interested to make a full trip happen anyway. The apologetic VAR staff made a signup sheet in case anyone rolled in early Saturday looking for a trip. Saturday morning six of us stopped at registration to discover that a big bunch of people had signed up – wheee! We rearranged ourselves into two groups – a group of six (including and) led by Kim and Lisa and a group of eight (including and) led by me and Diana.

Kim’s group arrived first, and they rigged the entrance with both a handline and a cable ladder. The ladder was useful on the way in and necessary on the way out. Water poured into the entrance room through several cracks in the ceiling and along the left wall. A guy in my group declined to use either the webbing or the ladder and slid about 30 feet coming in. Wheee! He wasn’t hurt but busted his pack open and spilled its contents in the process. We spotted two salamanders, one Eurycea lucifuga, one only an inch and a half long, dark (Green? Black?), with a pale stripe down the back and some number of toes. No bats.

We were still in the Grantham Room when we heard the first group above us at the Overlook. Our group was moving slowly and two of them would likely have trouble navigating the Toilet Bowls. When we got from the Overlook back to the Octopus Room it was clear that those two would be challenged by anything deeper in the cave. Diana agreed to escort them out so that the rest of us could continue.

After the Breakdown Staircase, we caught up with Kim and Lisa et al at the Comic Book Hole. They had all gone through! Wheee! I was the only one in my group who made it through despite others’ efforts; I clearly should work on my cheerleading skills! That said, it was good that we didn’t waste too much energy there since we all wanted to make it out of the cave, and preferably in time for dinner.

Back at the entrance, everyone made use of the cable ladder. There was a little trouble once it got tangled up with the handline, and it kept sliding into a crevice on the right. We remedied that by having one person wedge himself in on the left in order to hold the ladder in place. When we all met back at the cars, I learned that Diana had assisted her cavers with some photography on their way out, which (based on the smiles on their faces) helped make their trip worthwhile.

My thanks to the considerable efforts of Diana, Kim, and Lisa for salvaging this into a fun, successful, safe trip! Thank you so much! And, bonus, we made it back in time for showers before dinner!

(Dues-paying) Grotto members:

On August 25 we will visit a cave in Lee County, VA. We will have an affordable nearby campground reserved for the nights of August 24 and 25. Some brief details about the cave follow. Please complete the signup survey linked below [Removed].

This will be a horizontal trip; no vertical gear needed. I always recommend knee pads. There are some long, low crawls, but they can be bypassed. Much of the cave offers walking passage. How wet you get will depend on recent rainfall and whether you reach the stream passage. Wetsuits aren’t needed, but you will appreciate waterproof boots.

This cave is appropriate for all skill levels. Attractions include waterfalls, gypsum, salamanders, weird formations, mountains of breakdown.

If you want to go on this trip and you haven’t already signed up, please send me an email (