We had a good turnout for our virtual February 2021 meeting led by Zeke Van Fossen. He introduced himself but told everyone else that they’d have to wait to be acknowledged during the program. Everyone else included Joanna Y., Andre C., Emily G., Jessica K., Timothy W., Diana G., Rob H., Lisa L., Mike Broome, Taylor Tibbs, Mark D., Lee O., Dan LaP., Pete H., and Ken Walsh.

Zeke listed the annual dues, the way to pay them, and a reminder that everyone should join the TriTrogs and the NSS.

Hopefully Elise Sanderson will provide a list of web updates to share at the next meeting if she cannot attend.

Zeke mentioned that Cancelled Events seems a strange topic to have on the agenda. The Weed, California NSS Convention planners may not offer a decision until the end of March. The Spring Grand Caverns Restoration Camp has been cancelled, and Zeke shared a few things that were very special to him about this annual event. Ken suggested that we may be able to plan something in the Fall but wouldn’t know anything until this summer.

Taylor Tibbs briefly described the programs for some upcoming meetings:

  • February: show and tell
  • March: Emily will introduce a cave-themed game
  • April: Ken will be sharing cave maps drawn by different artists/cartographers
  • Mike will take us caving into his basement
  • Everyone should pressure Peter into sharing a talk
  • Looking for volunteers to share more

Because Mark had not seen the January meeting minutes, he asked about the identities of the 2021 TriTrog officers. Zeke is Grotto Chair, Taylor continues as Vice Chair, Mike serving as Treasurer, Ken as Secretary, and Elise continuing as Webmaster. Mark was notified that the meeting minutes are posted on the TriTrogs web site. They don’t go out automatically to the list serve.

Rob H. shared a trip report from a day trip in which he had gone to Balcony Sink Cave and Neversink Cave. 2 hour drive. BSC featured a huge waterfall and a tree growing in the middle. he described Neversink Cave as an inverted Aztec pyramid with glowworms. SCCi owns Neversink, an open air pit 200 feet across. Sign up in advance for access. It’s easy to get great photos of this beautiful rappel. Lots of dead turtles were at the base of the pit. Rob described how one of his team dropped his phone down the pit into deep mud, they formed a spiral search, and the phone in a cheap case was still functioning. Lee O. challenged Rob’s pit depth, saying that Neversink Cave is only 168 feet deep.

This month’s program was constructed as a Show-And-Tell for cavers about caves and cave-related paraphernalia:

  • Zeke began by showing off his first cave pack and crediting Diana G. for its vintage look. He has held to the mantra that “It must go underground” where everything gets beaten to hell. Peter showed Zeke how to use the straps to slide it into a football position.
  • Zeke also carries a weather device that measures temperature, wind speed, and barometric pressure.
  • Tim W. belonged to the Clocktower Grotto in Georgia but now lives in Greensboro. He shared a shiny, new version of the Swaygo pack because caves deal out such a beating on packs. He also shared that he sports the NSS bats tattoo on his ankle.
  • Mike shared that he carries the vintage Swaygo pack and loves using Lisa L.’s Disto for surveying because it makes the trips so much faster.
  • In contrast, Lisa L. shared her Suunto compass and clinometer pair as her favorite cave items. She also enjoys a really good vacuum thermos because liquids will still be hot hours later, a necessity after thirteen-hour trips with Carlin. Lisa L. also shared a beautiful candle setting from Glenwood Caverns where they began their wild caving experiences.
  • Andre C. described a Protraction/Grigrier 1 device that he uses for top rope-rigged soloing.
  • Lee Olson shared a titanium scarab that can hold two people, and Lee only uses one horn at his caving weight of 180 pounds. He also shared a French wrap that he uses as a safety when bees sting him. Lisa admired Lee’s titanium micro rack from New Zealand that gives him a really smooth rappel. Rob asked if Lee planned to rappel fast enough to make the titanium change colors, but Lee has more sense than that.
  • Diana shared one of her vintage flash bulbs that are the size of incandescent lamp bulbs. She offered to let Mike put it into one of his home lamp fixtures. Diana also presented a pair of earrings constructed from a halved cave pearl left over from a scientific study. She also taught the grotto members the French word for formations: concrecions.
  • Mark shared his first cave pack that he bought at his first VAR; he likes its versatility and chooses it over his new pack when sharing packs with others. He also likes carrying duct tape wrapped around his water bottle and found that it survived many washes after years of caving.
  • Dan LaP. promoted the warm glow from his dad’s carbide lamp and noted how its lumens wouldn’t blind fellow cavers. Rob recalled that he needed to be able to assemble and light a carbide lamp blindfolded in order to get into VPI Caving Club.
  • Joanna shared that she is looking for gear and would like to learn more from videos.
  • Emily shared her steampunk clay bat that she molded herself. Although she didn’t have any of Speleosoap’s Cave candles (that smell like the humus near a cave entrance), she did share a candle with the scent of Ridgewalking. Emily declared that the Ridgewalking candle smelled like failure. Not sure about the best marketing campaign.
  • Jessica K. joins us by way of Bear Grotto in Texas and now teaches Geology at Wake Tech. She shared a sliced formation from the Yucatan whose dark bands indicated drought periods and have been associated with the soot from rituals to appease the Mayan god Chaac. She also had a cat-of-nine-tails made from caving rope given to her at her wedding reception.
  • Zeke was relieved to discover that Ken’s Canned Bat did not contain formerly living bat. Ken also shared his short rack that could act as a stop for horizontal cavers because it’s so hard to even get a rope onto.

The meeting concluded, but members stayed online to share more about online videos and how to choose caving gear.

In attendance: Zeke Van Fossen (Chair), Mike Broome (Treasurer), Taylor Tibbs (Vice Chair), and recording Ken Walsh (Secretary)

As the meeting began, Ken updated contact information, checked stats with Mike and Zeke, and submitted our annual report to the NSS.

The January bank statement shows an increase of $15.01 but does not include the PayPal account’s increase.

Mike and Zeke confirmed that the web site’s Chair emails are being forwarded to Zeke.

Taylor led a discussion about upcoming meeting presentations:

  1. NO PROMISES BUT Mike will build a cave in his basement, and it may include glow-in-the-dark, objects not to scale, sounds of dripping formations, and even a cave-like smell. The smell will not be similar to Big Sink Cave, and it won’t be too cold for him. There may be choices along the way that the audience will engage in through a Zoom poll for a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure experience.
  2. The February program is Zoom Show-and-Tell, and Taylor will ask folks to quickly share any cave- or cave-related item they may have worth showing.
  3. Taylor will tap Pete Hertl to share a presentation on cave biology. She will offer to be in charge of sharing the images if that makes it easier for Pete.
  4. Regarding cave cartography, Ken was asked to consider Zoom presentations about how to add cave symbols, featuring some cool cave maps done by many different cartographers, and/or a long presentation showing the steps involved in moving from sketch to map. Ken will contact Dwight Livingston about sharing some cool maps with permission in March.
  5. A suggestion arose to ask Jenn Macalady to speak about snottites or another unusual cave formation. Guest speakers should work well in the Zoom format.
  6. Mike Broome will ask Nick or Dave Socky to share photos of the recent exploration in the WVCC’s Great Savannah Cave System (WV). Over forty miles of cave have been surveyed.
  7. Emily could lead a game of Just One-Caver’s Edition. This is tentatively scheduled for April and has worked well in the Zoom format.
  8. Zeke will consider how we might execute a caver’s version of Jeopardy, and the officers already identified one that appears online.
  9. The NSS has a library of slide shows that Taylor can draw upon, but she may save these for dates when the speaker has to cancel.

The officers plan to engage in an online discussion about when public health conditions suggest it’s okay to meet in person again and what precautions we may want to take (e.g., meeting outdoors). They will engage in discussions with the museum when the time is appropriate.

We worked out a schedule for the General Meeting announcements. Taylor will send Zeke a blurb about the meeting program a week in advance, and Zeke will send out the meeting notice on Thursday before the meeting. He will also send out a reminder on Monday evening before the meetings. The Zoom link will not be featured on the Facebook page because the page is open.

As the summer approaches, the officers may discuss a socially distanced picnic and a possible grotto trip.

Happy Pączki Day!


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 https://www.tritrogs.org/membership-info/ or contact Mike at treasurer@tritrogs.org.


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 (wvcc.net).
  • 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 nsscon2020.org or the NSS YouTube channel.
  • Check the TriTrogs Google calendar for upcoming cancellations. As always, the calendar can be found on the TriTrogs.org 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. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1h1g41PL0sBIV4ZQcmayyqJVyiTsT1cNkw3aydze1cwM/edit?usp=sharing


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.