Highland County Cave Survey

Rick Lambert
NSS 12496
March 23-24, 2002

This past survey weekend for the Highland County Cave Survey was another successful weekend. We started Saturday morning by dividing up into two groups. Barry Horner, Rick Royer and Scott Wahlquist headed to the east side of the Bullpasture Mountain to locate and survey April Showers Pit. Brien Farris, Kim Johnson, Billy Picket, Rick Wagner, R. J. Wagner and I headed to the southern end of the mountain to locate and survey five different caves.

We walked up the trail that leads from the Bullpasture River to the Hupman Valley road. When we were near the area the caves were supposed to be in we entered the coordinates for one of the caves into Brien's GPS. As Brien walked towards the cave we spread out and started searching the area. Rick found Seven Shots Cave and the survey began. Rick, Brien and I surveyed the cave as Billy, R. J., and Kim continued searching for the other entrances. Our plan was to split up into two survey teams for efficiency, but on the walk up Billy realized he left his survey gear back at my house. Every time I have caved with Billy he leaves something at home. Rick has decided to make him a checklist for each trip. My guess is Billy will forget the list!

Seven Shots Cave taped out at 128.4 feet and actually it only took seven shots. There is a scaling pole climb in the terminal room that will yield more footage at a later date. From Seven Shots Cave we moved to Judy's Pit. There we found the 40' pit really couldn't safely be done with a 30' cable ladder. I know that for many of you out there that is a given, but for those of us with more testosterone than estrogen in our blood we have to try it first. From Judy's Pit we looked at several possible digs located by the ridgewalking team as we headed to Fincham's Dig Cave. There we found it was still a dig and not a cave at all. From there we entered the coordinates for Hot Friday Afternoon Cave into the GPS and this led us back to Seven Shots Cave. After carefully reading the descriptions we concluded Seven Shots Cave and Hot Friday Afternoon Cave were the same cave.

It was past "beer thirty and I asked if the crew was ready to call it a day. Everyone agreed and we decided to ridge walk back to our vehicles. At one point Billy went down one hollow as the rest of us went down another. When we arrived at the place we were to meet him he was not there. We hollered and Billy answered some distance away. When he arrived he related how he had stopped to talk to two hikers and as they were talking a large black bear came running straight for them from our direction. Billy said they asked each other what they should do and once they started moving the bear saw them and deviated from its path. Two bears in two survey weekends! At least this one was not in a cave.

The April Showers crew did not come home until 11 PM. They found the cave extremely sporting and said it took them 2 hours to exit the cave, which is only 120 feet deep. They left six leads unsurveyed, most in water. This is a good, dedicated, experienced crew and should be a testimony to the difficulty of the cave.

Sunday morning we decided to finally use the key to the Bullpasture Mountain that the Game Commission had issued us to conduct the inventory of caves on their property. Pat Bingham, Rick Royer, and Scott Wahlquist went to Singing Tree Cave to finish its survey. Barry Horner, Earl Suitor and R. J. Wagner went to Chipmunk Hotel to start the dig on this nice karst feature. Billy Picket, Rick Wagner and I headed to Grouse Cave to survey it.

Grouse Cave taped out at 78.7 feet. The cave appeared to be virgin and had some nice formations in it. It also had a sporting climb down that Rick almost slid into.

When I arrived at the dig site the dig crew had abandoned Barry and was touring the entrance part of Singing Tree. I watched Barry work for a while and asked him to come over to a small shallow sink I stumbled on near Chipmunk Hotel. He followed me and I asked him to give me 30 minutes on the hole. We couldn't push an iron bar very far into it, but it looked like it had great possibilities. We dug down several feet in 29 minutes and I asked Barry to hand me the bar. I poked it into the hole and hit a rock. Barry told me to move it over to where my feet were. I forced the bar down between two rocks and in three thrusts the bar dropped into a cave with only the handle showing. We left the site (Attractive Nuisance Dig/Cave) with several feet of rock and dirt still between the void and us and went back to Chipmunk Hotel.

At Chipmunk Hotel Earl and R. J. were continuing downward. When we left we were down to the point dirt was disappearing between the rocks in the hole. Barry predicted the site would yield a cave on the next day we dig on it.

When the Singing Tree crew got out they related how they had finished the survey and started out two hours earlier. The problem was they couldn't get Pat's gluteus through the small hole at the top of the first drop. Actually it wasn't her gluteus as much as it was the buckles on her harness. With Scott at the top moving buckles and Rick from below they finally got her through the hole.

Normally, this would be the end of the report, but not with Billy Picket around. As we were leaving the Bullpasture River Billy wanted Rick Wagner to take a picture of his van going through the high water at the ford. Rick got out of the van and Billy backed across the river and up on the opposite shore. He then started into the water again and got about a third of the way across when the van sputtered to a halt. Every attempt to start the van ended in failure and laughter as exhaust bubbles and water spouted from the tail pipe which was underwater. Billy's face looked like he was in shock.

I backed my truck into the river and told him to hook the chain to anything he wanted to come out of the river. I pulled the van out of the river and watched as water shot over 10 feet from the tail pipe and muffler when he started the van. Never a dull moment!

At the present time we have surveyed 22 caves since October. We are well on our way toward our revised goal of 50 surveyed caves by the October Virginia Speleological Survey meeting. We decided not to survey over the Easter weekend. Our next survey weekend will be April 27th and 28th. Come on out and join in the festivities!

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