[Ed. Note: This article was originally reported on the Gangtsa-Mappers website
- www.psc-cavers.org/gangsta-mappers - and includes comments by the editor of
that website, Bob Zimmerman.]
On Sunday [Sept. 2, 2001] at OTR a group of PSC cavers headed to Cassell for a mini-Gangster-project day. After finishing the preliminary radio-location scouting, Stan Carts and some of the others mentioned a trip into Grimes Cave since we were headed to the Ballroom Entrance of Cassell to do a GPS location nearby. On the way back to the parking lot from Cassell owner's house, I quickly glanced through WVASS' Bulletin 6 "Caves and Karst Hydrology in Northern Pocahontas County" by Doug & Hazel Medville for a look at a map and short description of the cave.
After locating the Ballroom Entrance to Cassell, most of the group headed to the entrance of Grimes, which involved a fairly challenging hike along the mountainside and up the stream that emerges (at various points) from the entrance of Grimes. The entrance is quite impressive, a tall, wide passage leading off the side of a headwall.
Grimes Cave is in a layer of limestone above Cassell. [Ed. Its stream comes from the hollow to the south (the hollow where both Cassell Pit and the Windy Entrance are located). As water flows down this hollow, it sinks at several points. The highest insurgence flows north under the ridge and reappears in Grimes. During high flow periods the water overflows this insurgence and continues down the hollow into Cassell Pit, where it then travels under the ridge and reappears in the same Grimes stream, farther downhill.]
Stan, Bob, MaryAnn and Ken Robins and I headed into the cave while Bob Zimmerman and friends rested before heading back around the mountain. It quickly got narrow, while remaining mainly walking passage, especially if you are skinny enough to fit sideways through the many pinches at chest level, with the stream running towards the entrance and a few inches deep along the floor the whole way.
The walls were a very sandy limestone, with lots of water carved ledges and small hollows. After a few hundred feet we were presented with a quite sporting 15 foot climb in a large room, beyond which we could hear a waterfall. We decided to attempt a low stream passage we had passed on the left that continued upstream.
Ken and I scouted out a
low passage that ran for about 75 feet of hands and knees crawling and duck
walking before opening up to a large room that featured the 30' waterfall we
had heard earlier. Ken provided a boost so I could get up to the balcony
that looked down from the top of the sporting climb we had seen before.
The rest of the group followed through the low passage, while Ken and I played around in the breakdown high above, which ran along the bedding plane of the rock layer above the limestone the cave is formed in. We also noticed that the passage continued on, lower and narrower, upstream from the waterfall, but decided not to go since the description we had read described the passage as 200 feet of sewer that was wet and didn't lead anywhere.
Ken headed downstream at high level with a low ceiling and breakdown and mud floor for 50 feet or so before being called back, and used high and dry chimneying to avoid some of the wetness on our way out to the other side of the big room, although there was no avoiding the hands and knees crawl through the stream. The trip back to the entrance was fast and easy (total time underground around an hour and a half), and we were reluctant to leave the cave and return to the heat, humidity and mountainside outside.
Afterwords, Bob Zimmerman discussed the possibilty of re-surveying the cave as part of the Cassell project and tying it in to the map, although he wanted to check the existing map and description. In my opinion, it would take two or three survey teams a day to survey the cave, since the passage is generally narrow, there are a few low, wet side passages and it may be hard to get long shots. Overall, a nice cave to visit, although a real pain to get to!