General Meeting Minutes from November 28, 2023


In attendance: Ken, Mike B. Mark, Kyle, Max, Taylor T., Melanie, Zeke, Nick, Kenna, Phil, John, Eli, Maria, Emily, Carlin, Zach, Stephan, April, Lisa, Mike Y., Quentin, Diana, Jillian, Piotr


  • Proposed year-end donation:
    • $100 to West Virginia Cave Conservancy ( for cave preserve maintenance
    • $100 to Eastern Region of the National Cave Rescue Commission ( towards a cave rescue cache and rescue trailer for Greenbrier Co., WV
    • $50 to Proyecto Espeleológico Sistema Huautla ( to support exploration and underground research
  • The holiday party is at Mark’s place in Durham on December 9 from 5:30 to 10:30pm. Use the Google sheet to sign up to bring something, or just show up! The squeeze box might make an appearance.
  • The grotto elects new officers in January. Volunteer! No experience or gray hair needed.

Trip Reports

  • Mike and Lisa went to Ellison’s to photograph Fantastic Pit (586 ft, longest free drop underground in the US). A friend of theirs is coming out with a book about the cave so they had some fancy photography equipment. They hauled a bunch of gear in Thursday night, came back the next day, and another team had rigged the rope for Fantastic Pit for them. Unfortunately, the photographer ran into some issues and was unable to get on rope, so the photo part of the trip had to be cancelled. M & L used frog system for the shorter drops and ropewalker for the pit.
  • Nick traveled to Morgantown, WV, for the two-and-a-half-day Orientation to Cave Rescue course. So far, it hasn’t changed the way he caves, but it changed the way he packs. He has 5-6 pages of notes. He feels that the low need for knowledge specific to caving appeals to beginners. In fact, many of the attendees were guides for adventure camps who fit that demographic.
  • Phil descended into Blowhole Cave. This was the first trip since they dug it open a year ago. The next trip will require a bit of persuasion. A successful connection will make this the first vertical entrance to a large existing cave system.
  • Melanie and Eli poked around in Speedwell Cave and marveled that a cave with such a large, roadside entrance still boasts some nice formations. They laughed at the very sketchy ladder to nowhere. They also made the slog back to Mega-Junction in Blue Spring Cave in TN and admired the jaguar tracks. On a separate trip, they stopped at something called Beacon Cave (in VA) to see if they could find it. Then they went to Tawney’s and looked in every nook and cranny. Eli described a lot of perilous mud slopes with no foot holds and a high risk of sliding.
  • April, Eli, Emily, Ken, Kyle, Melanie, Nick, Quentin, Steve, and six other people worked on the trail to Hancock Cave before splitting into three groups and exploring within. They marked the trail from the road to the creek with several tall plastic stakes. April showed Ken how to bend rebar to help hold some steps in place.
  • Eli, Emily, Ken, Melanie, and Nick ventured into Atwell’s Tunnel Cave. Scat and spiders occupied most of the cave, but Nick was happy to find one passage that featured lots of tiny rimstone dams instead.
  • Phil mopped up some small leads in Carpenter-Swago. It was disappointing.
  • Nick enjoyed being able to safely guide a friend and new caver through Worley’s Cave (TN).

Upcoming Trips

  • Dec. 2 – New River Cave sport trip and Buchanan Saltpeter Cave survey (Phil)
  • Dec. 15 – Worley’s Cave, TN (Melanie)
  • NYE? – New River Cave sport trip (Emily)
  • July 1-5, 2024 – NSS Convention in Sewanee, TN
  • ??? – Bone-Norman sport trip (Melanie)


Stephan showed a video: “Rettungsaktion in der Riesending Höhle” about the 2014 rescue of Johann Westhauser