Memorial Day Cave Survey
by Mike Frisina
April 12, 2003

I got to Germany Valley at about 9 p.m. Friday and had a few beers as we discussed Saturday's efforts. Some mention was given to forming two survey teams for Memorial Day. I had promised Gordon that I would make sure the [censored] dig was outfitted with at least four people. I was not sure I would get four because the turn-out was light.

Miles and I went in to Memorial Day at some late point on Friday evening to hook up the sump pump down at the Chocolate Surprise. To our surprise the sump was dry as a bone.

On Saturday morning, after returning from breakfast with Devin, things went fast. The Memorial Day crew was dressed and ready. They had already organized the two survey teams and I was in one of them. I asked Devin to make sure the [censored] dig was covered as I got into caving gear fast. We entered the cave at 10a.m.

The first part of the cave is slow and tight; Ralph, Rick and I reached the 55 foot drop in about an hour. I was a little apprehensive about the Puppet Buster. I had never been through it and the squeeze freaks had described it as a tight miserable key hole crack. I wasn't sure I would fit.

They exaggerated the Puppet Buster. It was a little tight at the rig point but not that difficult to deal with. I had put on my harness before doing the Puppet Buster and this proved to be a good thing. We all got through and down the drop at the far side in about an hour.

The drop was cool; step off a ledge from this small key hole crack and your dropping into a large canyon. Fifty feet down there is a junction of the two domes that make up the drop of 125 feet. The rope stays against the wall almost all the way down. At the bottom you land in a mud hole with boot sticking mud.

Finally, plenty of breathing room. We were in a large canyon passage with a nice dry place to get out of our vertical gear. We recharged our carbide lamps and filled our water bottles in a nearby waterfall. It is easier to carry your water bottles empty to this point and fill them, using iodine tabs, then be on your way.

The canyon was awesome, water streamed in from every dig in the valley and maybe a few we've missed. As we ventured through you could see changes in the rock. At one point the passage looked just like Con Cave. We would pass one waterfall just in time to hear the next one.

It took three hours up, down, and through breakdown to reach the end of the canyon. At the end was a very impressive room. My light could not see the walls. In the center was a rock they call "The Pinnacle". It's 20 feet high, can be climbed and commands the room. But now it was time to start the survey.

Our first shot was 88 feet into the right side end of the large room and to a ledge at the top of a canyon passage that went both ways. Anyone bring a rope? Ok now what? Lets double back to the first going lead from the big room.

We restarted the survey and the new lead slowly got smaller; we were down to a crawl. The passage profile was D-shaped and the floor was flat as it met a sloped mud plug. We could hear a loud rumble from off to the left. That's where we found a head-sized hole plugged with some of the sloped mud plug.

We discussed whather or not to dig as there was so much unsurveyed canyon around. But the noise of the waterfall was too powerful and I began to dig. In 10 minutes I was through. Oh no, not another Puppet Buster, but that's what it was. Ralph called it "Son of Puppet".

We decided to pass this down lead and continue forward instead. Soon we knew why we had heard the rumbling sound; a small waterfall cascaded down the wall to the left.

We surveyed on and into yet another large canyon, as large as Columbia Canyon. First we went right because it looked easier. It went up, and up, and up. Did I mention up? I don't know how many feet but I bet it was 300 in elevation. At the top the passages split, but not like normal.

One went down, the other went up, right and over the top of the other. Very weird, and both dead-ended. We went back to survey the other side

We shot a few very vertical stations and came to a 20-foot climb that stopped us. We hoisted Ralph up the climb to let him check it out. He went for 80 feet or so to another drop about 40 to 50 feet deep. This lead would have to wait for rope.

We passed a second D shaped passage back at the waterfall and picked up our survey at that point. Rick jumped first into a belly crawl that led to a wall of stalagmites. We picked a spot that would do the least damage and went through.

Just past the formations the passage went big time and opened up to comfortable walking passage. There was a large cluster of white translucent formations ceiling to floor with medusa-head formations all over it. Very impressive.

The passage continued with a light dust-like floor. As you stepped down your foot sank into six inches of gypsum dust. We were very careful to step in each others foot prints only leave a single set of tracks.

The walls are covered with gypsum flowers and needles and the passage wound back and forth for some time to our last shot. Again Rick asked, "Ah, anyone have a rope"?

The passage stopped at a 60 foot pit that had four other outlets. I think this pit is over Columbia Canyon. It still goes up at least 40 feet, maybe more.

It was time to go, 2 a.m., so we started out. I was eager to get out, too. I had done the trip smokeless and wanted a cigarette badly. We all got to the 125 foot drop together and I went up first and kept going through the puppet buster. It was now a highway mostly walking thanks to a great job done by Tom, Bob, and Kevin.

I went for the 55-foot climb and as I got off rope at the top, Rick and Ralph were just getting off rope from the big drop. I let them know I was heading out and I bolted for the entrance. I made it out at 9:30 a.m., the sun was out and it was a gorgeous day in the valley.