TriTrogs and BCCS cavers got frosty

TriTrogs and BCCS cavers got frosty before digging in
Butler Cave on 1-18-20 for Butler Project Weekend #205
Exploring Low Moor Cave on 1-19-20

By Elise Sanderson

Party Members:
Walsh, Lisa Lorenzin, Megan Junod, Axel Ribeille, Elise Sanderson.

Chris Flannagan joined on 1-19 for Low Moor Cave.

The first Tritrog trip of the year almost began bust with plans changing, cavers having to cancel, and injuries aloof. As Mike, Lisa, and myself were going to be at BCCS doing project weekend, and Mike was out with an injury, we melded 2 trips into one successful excursion with 5-6 cavers.

We stayed at The Roost Friday, and with a VERY cold humid start to the Saturday morning, we made our way to the homestead to plan out trips. With ice covering most surfaces, we had to be careful. Changing clothes outside with ice on the ground in open air was quite a blast, and the SOFA entrance to Butler Cave was very reassuring warmth. Looking back, this was my first cold weather caving, and it was a totally new experience. This cold reminded me of the miserable desert mornings before the 130 degree sun came up in Afghanistan, only with ice everywhere, and little sun to warm.

Around 15 people had stayed at the homestead, and a few BCCS members (Max, Mark, Nathan, others) joined us on the tour before the digging commenced. We started into Butler Cave to do the see the Bean Room Overlook with a gnarly 100+ft drop then through to 90 Ugh to Sand Canyon. We went to the natural Bridge upstream, which is where the dry cave portion ended. Before this trip I’d freshly bought and then promptly forgot my Wellies in my car, in a different state (NC). To boot, Max and I had non-waterproof vented combat boots, so on the way to the air dig things got interesting.

Getting to the air dig requires going down an underground stream, which everyone loved Max and I rock hopping along. But, full admittance, at the end with no dry rock in sight.. Lisa wanted to carry me, but I wouldn’t let her since she weighs 30 pounds less than me, so Axel carried me downstream. Then Max got carried by Ken, and we were at the air digsite shortly after. Ken made the comment that the Marine and Naval Academy Midshipman (Student) had to be carried over water, which was a great look back at the traversal.

The digsite is exceptionally well thought out, designed, well abused, and the most fun ive had working underground yet. Phil Lucas’ system is smart and fun to use for sure. The system takes at least 8-10 people to operate, uses a sled on PVC tracks in one section, and an overhead hoist line and pulley system on the other half. We worked the dig with more BCCS members Mark Hodge, Amos Mincin, Sarah Xenophon, Eric Pelkey, Daniel Tucker, Nathan Roser. Amos and Sarah had just popped a big rock, and after clearing that debris we made a few feet of progress on the face. When we collectively stopped digging for the day, the tunnel had visibly changed direction twice, chicaning to the right, then left and continuing straight. This is big news in a tunnel that has been going almost totally straight for 15 years of digging!

Fun fact, trash bag waders don’t work for very long on rocks, as I found out the hard way on the way out. We egressed with some fun crawling on the Blue Ribbon Loop, and upon exiting every grass blade was frozen and the cars were almost fully iced shut. This made stripping wet clothes off exceptionally fun, as everything you could lean against while mostly naked was frozen and ice cold. After we all got back to the roost, Lisa, Megan and myself went back over to the Homestead to hang out with everyone before heading to Low Moor in the Morning.

—Low Moor Mine and Cave—

The five of us met Chris Flannagan, who drove up from Durham, at Penny’s Diner which made our party six. The drive to the mine was short, and driving into a mine to park before caving is pretty wild. Low Moor mine and cave consists of vast hollowed open area 30+ vertical feet of open mine topside, then below ground a miniature “Mines of Moria” with vast open areas 100+ft tall, with even bigger pillars holding it steady. Sadly Durin’s Bridge must have been skipped in this mine, or Gandalf already remodeled here. No signs of a Balrog either thankfully, just some crappy graffiti vandals.

The cave has wide passages with lots of eccentric hurdles to navigate, and small passages linking other similar passages. Occasional calcite features scatter the area, all semi to fully covered in soot from heavy equipment diesel making them black. There is gypsum flowers and other crystalline features in both Low Moor and Butler Caves. After Lisa, Megan, and myself called it good for the day, Ken, Axel, and Chris proceeded to let us know there was plenty more caving to be had, as they learned after we stopped. I’m excited to go back to discover the plank and other features, maybe when I wasn’t exhausted from digging.

This was great first trip of the year, with getting to meet many people and getting away for a bit. HUGE thanks to all involved in making it happen! Sorry about the delay in the report, information and names were being collated!

Elise Sanderson