Five Springs Cave
September 29, 2001
As we gathered at the parking area and got geared up I found Rick Lambert, Barry Horner and Rick Royer as well as Larry Baer and Ben Schwartz milling about. I had seen Ben's presentation on the survey in Omega system at Convention last year and was happy to get the chance to meet him here. Maybe he would bring some good luck to this project.
Three teams were in the cave. Rick Lambert would take his team of Phil Lucas and Joshua Rubinstein into some leads near the front of the cave. From there they would work deeper into the mountain if possible. Rick Royer, Ben Schwartz and Scott Walquist would go to the back of the cave and push a small upstream lead that Barry Horner had previously described as "inhumanely passable". I guess that means you could be get through, but it would be inhuman to put any one through there.
Some comment about the cave's characteristic must be made at this point. Foregoing the low, wet entrance series with multiple pools of water to traverse, the cave does eventually stand up and become comfortable walking passage. The earlier surveyors basically stuck to the stream level where ever they could and only occasionaly climbed up over breakdown to circumvent obstructions. As they progressed the cave passage grew taller and showed the maturity of a well worn vadose stream trunk. Chimneying along the stream channel at the bottom one could often look up and see significant blackness, ledges or voids over head. The high places in the passage are where most of the remaining survey leads are located. In fact all of the survey we would do that day were in this level well above the stream.
Eventually the sculpted mud area has ended and the stream character makes an interesting change. Where it had previously been rather straight canyon-like passage, following the strike, the stream now began to follow wide meanders left and right across the base of a complex multi-level passage. In the places where major corners were encountered there were often high leads to climb up and survey. We noted several of these and made plans to knock them out on the way back.
As we stood there Ben mentioned that he had spotted an igneous dyke in the passage just ahead of us. I quickly scampered up, following his directions and there it was. Right at station AA41 the passage had punched right through the nearly vertical plane of an igneous dyke. We stopped to take pictures of what looked like a seam, two feet wide, that had been ripped open and then filled in with a light, mineral rich material. Closer examination showed lots of mica and possibly biotite embedded in the rock. We took several photo's but unfortunately didn't think to try for a strike and dip reading. Instead we moved on and got our survey under way.
We soon found ourselves at the edge of a pit. A nice step across and then straddle along a canyon put us up onto another ledge, even higher above the stream floor. The only way to go from here was up. We skirted around another pit and stepped up onto yet another ledge and into a wide chamber. Up and up some more. From here we climbed up a crevice in the ceiling and into a low wide chamber. Some narrow pits dropped back to the lower levels but were too narrow for passage. The unique feature of this area however appeared in the walls.
In almost every direction we looked there appeared fossil casts. These were unique though, not the normal crinoids or brachs. These fossils were conical in shape and appeared to be tightly coiled gastropod shells. Making a leap of faith I guessed they were a fossil known as an "Archimedes Coil". I was dubious however whether that fossil existed during the period in which this lime was deposited in the oceans. The only examples of Archimedes Coil I had seen before were from the Greenbrier limestones, and we were in the Helderberg or Tonoloway limestone (much older). [Ed. Since the writing of this article a geologist, Gordon Brace, has identified the fossils as Rugosa Corals (common name). Their scientific name is Enterolasma but most people know them as horn coral, or just "Rugies". These are the largest examples of horn coral I've ever seen.]
We satisfied ourselves with some photographs and then moved on. We surveyed across the chamber to where the ceiling disappeared and then stepped out into the space of a new room. Forty feet above the cave stream we had found a room with 20 foot ceilings. The room was probably 40 feet long by 20 feet wide and two large passages exited the room on the left and right heading down stream. Unfortunately my large flash unit had rolled down a mudbank and into the stream earlier in the trip. Otherwise I would have taken a shot of this large room.
We pushed the left hand lead and followed it 50 feet to where it died in a pair of domes. In the walls we saw more of the conical fossils but also noticed what appeared to be large beds of coral. Some more photos were taken and then we went back to the right hand lead in the room and looked into it. It was a great passage, 4 feet wide and over 8 feet high, but it would have to wait. We agreed that this should be left for the next team and we should head for the stew dinner being served at VAR.
As we climbed back down to stream level we were keen on finding a new route that would avoid the traverses around the pits we had done earlier. Barry had spotted an overlook that appeared to offer a 10 foot drop into an area of the cave known as Crinoid Hall. We had handlines and thought a body rappel might be the way to go.
When we came to the ledge Barry and I noticed other windows looking down that might offer alternate routes. One of these was an 8 foot drop which Barry used my handline to french-arm rappel down. He then walked around to peer up the second, narrower hole that I had been looking down. It proved to be a narrow chimney with little exposure to falling. The rest of the team slid down this hole and we flagged it with tape as the best route to climb back up to the Rugy Room.
We pushed back toward the entrance, endured the tight wet crawl, which was tighter and wetter going out, and emerged into the dim of evening. Nine and a half hours underground and 433 feet surveyed, not bad considering all the traverses and complexity of the passage sketch involved.
One observation on the cave that could influence how we proceed with mapping... in winter conditions this entrance will take cold air (even with the gate closed). The dampness of the entrance crawl is going to make it miserable for folks as they enter and leave the cave in wet caveralls, through howling, cold winds. It might be a good idea to survey as much as possible while the temperate conditions are still with us.
Devin S. Kouts
|The pictures in this article and others from this trip may be seen in higher resolution on the Five Springs Pictures page. D.S.K.|