Memorial Day Delayed Exit Trip
by Mike Frisina with additions by Kevin Flanagan
10 May 2003

Memorial Day Cave
Working Map of Memorial Day Cave. Click to enlarge.

We arrived at Germany Valley 10 p.m. Friday night. My friend Alice and my dog Emma came along for the ride. We were all excited about all the virgin passage the cave has been giving us.

Six of us were ready to do the 24 hour plus trip necessary to get to and map the virgin areas. Included were Ralph Hartley, Rick Royer, Tom Barton, Pete Penczer, Steve Biggers, and I. We made it underground about 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

Chocolate surprise was in its usual state of soupy mud. Ralph went in a few minutes early to hook up the sump pump, and try to dry things up a bit. We had a short delay waiting for the pump to do its thing. We then rolled out some plastic bags to keep from getting slimmed.

Memorial Day Cave
Steve Biggers descends the 50 foot drop in Memorial Day Cave. © M. Frisina, 2003

The 50-foot drop provided a good photo opportunity to take some pictures of Steve getting on rope. I was the last one down and shot some more photos of the waterfall at the bottom of the drop.

The puppet buster was fun as usual. I made it down to the bottom of the 125-foot drop by about 12:30. We talked about who would be on what team and made no decision but to decide later. It takes about 3-hours to get to the back end of Columbia Canyon, we split into teams at this point.

Team #1 - Pete, Rick, Mike. We decided to take a lead near the end of the canyon. First thing, a 30-foot drop down to a slope. I could see the rope on the bottom so I did not worry about putting my ascending gear on. Pete warned me this was not a good idea. I did it anyway without any problem.

Memorial Day Cave
Rick Royer crosses large mud dunes in a newly discovered room in Memorial Day Cave. The chamber measures 100 x 300 feet with 60 foot ceilings. © M. Frisina, 2003

The rest came down and we started the survey. The lead headed down a fairly steep slope with a crack down the center of it. Climbing was easy due to the crack. At the end was about a 40-foot drop.

Rigging was difficult because there was no place to attach the rope other than a limestone bridge that was at the very edge. Once the rope was in place we had to wiggle down the crack to get on rope. We did the drop and found ourselves in a room that was 100’X300’with ceilings around 50' to 60’ high.

The room was all mud dunes 20' to 30’ high. The mud was very slick and we thought it had been flooded during the snowmelt. (Warning #1) We did several splay shots to define the room. At one corner of the room was a sump we noted on the survey. A survey point that was placed close to the water, was under water when we returned to it later. (Warning #2)

A side lead in the northern part of the room was our next lead. It went into a totally different cave formation and was dry. It kept going. I was looking for the next station when I relocated one of the earlier stations. We found ourselves back in the dune room.We had completed a huge loop that went under the Pinnacle room. Very cool!

Memorial Day Cave
Tom Barton, Ralph Hartley, Rick Royer and Steve Biggers wait for receding water at the edge of a temporary lake in Memorial Day Cave. © M. Frisina, 2003

At this point it was 1:30 a.m. and time to go. I had major problems climbing on the tib-locks. They got jammed in a crack and were cat scratching the rope.

We were taking our time going out. Rick was eating every few min. and Pete was getting entrance fever. We got to within 300-feet of the 125-foot climb and started to hear voices. At 100 feet away we found out why, a lake had formed that was 89-feet long and 15-20’ deep.

Swimming with all our vertical gear was out, we would have sunk! Pete still had entrance fever and started to empty his stuff out of his pack taking only what was necessary. He swam out about 10 feet and started to sink.

He came back and we gave him our water bottles for buoyancy. With 5 or 6 bottles in his pack he was able to float out and yelled back to us that the rope was not in the water. He went up to organize some help.

Memorial Day Cave
Hero of the weekend, Brien Farris swims to the rescue of the stranded surveyors in Memorial Day Cave. © M. Frisina, 2003

Just about 6 hours latter we heard some noise up in the Puppet Buster. It was the extraction crew with an air mattress, food, and dry clothing. They pulled each of us across the lake on a raft with a rope. We then had help with our packs and exited the cave by 6p.m.

In cave about 32 hours, a new personal best. But this cave keeps throwing personal bests at us. All said and done, 2151 feet of new survey completed.

The following is a timeline of events submitted by Kevin Flanagan...

Time line from my memory Saturday at some point before noon ... Me and Bob Zimmerman enter MDC after the other two survey crews.

Some point arround supper ... Finish Coridor H (Miles Drake said the last generator rev was at 8:45pm). Have supper in cave.

Some point between 8pm and 10pm ... Drop into Columbia and discover the lake. Does not register what me and Bob are looking at. Travel to the 'lake' in West Columbia Canyon to see if it is dry and we can survey (Guess what, the last survey point is either under water or washed away). Egress.

2am ... Exit cave and report lake to Miles (watch Miles' eyes go wide) (At this point we start coming up with a plan)

9ish am ... Miles heads out to alert Steve Rhodes and Jeff McCracken that we might have some need of aid

9:45 am ... A wet Pete arrives asking for an air mattress. We start pulling everything together (sandwiches, gorp, dry poly pro, air mattress, wet suit, cave packs). Miles arrives back and we turn him around to get Steve. Zimmerman nixes me from the aid party and replaces me with Brian Ferris (thank you)

11:15 am (1:30 pm?) ... Miles enters first, then Brian, then Jeff, then Steve

4 pm ... First person, Steve Biggers emerges with Jeff McCracken in tow.

5:45 ish ... Mike Frisina emerges with Steve Rhodes

6 pm ish ... Ralph Hartley emerges saying he heard voices on the way out (mostly likely Mike F. and Steve Rhodes)

6:45 ish ... Tom Barton emerges

7:15 pm ... Rick Royer emerges singing the Gilligan Island theme song of a 33 hour tour.

9 pm ... Miles and Brian arrive.

10 pm ... Tom B. makes a wonderful supper.