Threatening weather seemed to have kept a number of people away this weekend but a respectable contingent turned out and significant progress was made on four caves.
Scott Davis, Sheila Underwood and I started the survey of Gnarly Tree. This is a wonderful cave, entrance spotted by Miles Drake some years ago, but never entered until the Mud Ducks dug it open early last year. After a small entrance passage, narrow enough to keep large people out, the cave goes big. A large room has two sloping areas in its floor with ceiling heights approaching 30 feet. A lead in the ceiling appears to go up to a higher-level passage. Downstream the cave continues as tall canyon passage, 25 feet high and usually 6 feet wide.
We knocked off about 400 feet of survey and then went to surface survey and tie Gnarly Tree in to the other caves in the area. After tying Gnarly Tree in to Fuzzy Naval and as our surface survey approached Trailer Pit, we could hear Ralph Hartley and Rick Royer working at the bottom of the pit. Ralph describes their day in the following manner:
“Rick and I … increased the "quality" of the [Trailer Pit] dig and reached the place where it looked like it widens, but it doesn't. We did increase the total cross sectional area of the constriction, which was only the size of your hand before. If that increases airflow (Saturday was cool, not much air), that will be a good sign. If airflow does NOT increase, we should abandon the dig - it is dead. In any case Middle Finger [a nearby dig] is looking like a better bet now.”
After chatting with Rick and Ralph we headed back to our vehicles near Gnarly Tree before proceeding over to the Beneath Breakdown dig. Along the way we passed Reisenschein's entrace and saw the packs that Ed Devine, Peter Penczer and Madeline Li had left on the surface earlier that morning. The next time I saw Ed he was showing me his survey notes from their trip to the end of Reisenschein.
Ed, Pete and Madeline had made it all the way to the end of the cave (~1800 feet horizontal length) and surveyed about 150 feet of low passage to a cobble dig. Ed felt there might be cave beyond the dig but the effort to reach it would be significant to say the least. As a result, assuming no obvious high leads remain, the Reisenschein survey should be complete. I can think of only one unsurveyed passage, and that carries the stream from an upstream dome through a narrow passage and to the top of the waterfall, lower in the cave.
Going to check on the Beneath Breakdown crew at about 7 p.m. I was first surprised to see no vehicles near the cave. Everyone had bugged out early. Sheila and I walked down to the entrance and I got my second surprise. Those guys had moved a “lot” of rock. Beneath Breakdown no longer accurately describe the cave's character. Every bit of rock that had obscured the entrance of the cave had been levered, towed, pushed or pulled out of the entrance and placed in two large piles nearby. I poked my head in the cave and could see a lead going down in the floor. Lacking a light I didn't pursue.
Back in camp I spoke with Barry Horner, and Pat Newman. Rick Lambert and Don Humphrey had already departed for home. Barry spoke about how they'd moved rock until they could see a solid wall. They dug down along the wall and gained access to an area large enough to sit up in. Barry described it as a crawlway, about 25 feet wide, with a fluted ceiling. Unfortunately the crawl is choked full of cobbles and will require an extensive amount of digging to continue. Optimistically however, the cave may head toward a sinkhole dig we started last month, and possibly obviate the need to continue that effort.
To sum it up, this weekend we started a new cave survey, finished an ongoing cave survey, may have reached the end of an ongoing dig, and made significant progress on a new dig. For such a small turn out we covered a lot of ground. My hat's off to all.
Devin Kouts, June 4, 2001