Teenage Mark experiences his "First Big Virgin"

February, 1996

The first fifty feet of survey were easily the most grueling of the day. Mark Weisbrot was on lead tape as he slithered into the one foot high by two foot wide hole. The lead was at floor level and copious amounts of spring runoff issued forth from it. Two shots took us to a point where the passage was too low to continue but by that point we were thoroughly soaked. I negotiated a turn around in the widest point of the crawl and headed out head first, Mark opted to back out and took a real butt-kicking in the process.

We headed back toward the main trunk passage and cleaned up a couple one shot side leads. Mark was in a poor mood after crawling through that stream. I have to admit that I was rapidly losing enthusiasm for the survey even though my torso was protected by the plastic trash bag I wore.

We met Susan Posey at a junction where she emerged from a side lead. She was slimed head to toe after having dug through a mud bank at the end of that lead. She reported another 30 feet of one foot high passage with stream in it, too. I asked if we should run a shot through it and she replied "no way am I going back in there". I didn’t want to alienate everyone on the team just yet so I said "sure, we’ll just sketch that in", but you know we’ll have to go back to clean that up some time.

Arnie Weisbrot was just as wet as the rest of us. We crawled back toward the trunk through the Bug Crawl where we’d all taken our first dousing of the day. Just over a foot high the stream was your constant companion through much of this mucky little infeeder. Back at the trunk we were all feeling the conditions upon us. We had only been in the cave an hour and a half!

We stopped and ate a bite and I changed into a dry shirt. That helped things a bit but every one else was still pretty crabby. We had gotten to the good part of the trip, a virgin lead off the main trunk that could potentially lead to great, new downstream passage. I guess I planned it right. Everyone had enough motivation left to check this out, had I done things in reverse I would never have gotten them into those nasty, little stream crawls.

We rigged a foot loop and tossed it over a projection in the mouth of the lead. A tricky little maneuver required you to place your foot in the loop and step up into it. This would leave you hanging over a hole in breakdown that dropped to the stream below. From there it was a matter of grunt work to pull yourself up into the high lead.

Once in the lead I saw a right hand passage that I was sure went upstream. I opted to go left thinking we had suffered enough for one day and deserved something more spacious. Within three shots Mark was leading his dad through a gut wrenching crawl at floor level. This was getting dismal, would it never end? I looked at the floor and made another disappointing discovery, the water was flowing towards us, we were headed upstream! I kept that to myself figuring "I had ‘em in here, might as well go for as much footage as possible".

It was at that point that both Susan and I looked up through some narrow fissures overhead and spotted roomy looking stuff up above. We found a spot we could climb up through and after two high angle shots we were in very comfortable passage, twelve feet wide and eight feet high. A narrow cleft in the floor dropped back down to where we had been before. We had climbed up to the top of a rather serpentine "keyhole" canyon.

Earlier I had asked Mark to scamper ahead and scoop the passage so we'd know what to expect. The entire time of our climb we could hear him in the distance ahead babbling about how big the passage was. Whew, finally we were getting a break. We took a couple shots around some corners in the canyon and up onto a high ledge. What a view, the floor was twenty feet below, the ceiling ten feet above and the walls were ten feet apart.

A couple more shots put us at the far end of the canyon where it split into three direction. We went high and left hoping to get further downstream in the cave. Unfortunately that led to a breakdown choke after thirty feet. This is the same breakdown choke that seems to block every other downstream lead in Twisted Fissure. It's an impedence formed by a line of sink holes on the surface, I've come to call this blockage "The Wall of Frustration".

We'd had enough. Mark had warmed up considerably since encountering his "first big virgin", as he puts it, but even that after glow was not enough to fend off the discomfort of our moistened condition. We scooped around the end of the canyon, a clean up survey would be necessary to pick up a pit there and a virgin lead was noticed on the right hand wall.

As we headed out I looked down the long piece of large cave we had ignored when we climbed to the top of the canyon. I had originally thought this to be upstream but it was actually downstream. It starts out seven feet high and ten feet wide but it's headed straight for the main trunk and probably won't last too long.

With the end of this trip it looks like we're getting close to the end of the survey. I envision one more trip to pick up the rest of that canyon passage and another sweep trip to get all the dinky stuffed we skipped. We'll have a look at all the upstream stuff that the Medville's surveyed and get a couple good cross sections. Then we can call this cast of thousands survey in Twisted Fissure complete... unless...

Devin Kouts

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