The entire weekend, cavers from the Near Normal Grotto from Bloomington, Illinois, including Todd McCarthy, Laura Pierce, L.J. Tognetti, Ralph Sawyer, Bill Morrow, Matt Level, and Chris ??, spent the weekend at my house, as well as Erin and Edmund Tucker, Eric and Dana Hooper, Barry Smith, Joe Nicolussi, Chris Doerhoff, and their friend Heather. In the morning we met up with Gary Resch and went to the Flaming River area to change into clothes to shuttle over to the Candle Canyon entrance. Gary led us right to the entrance; however a few boulders were in the hole and it had to be dug out. After a few minutes they were in, and we were in the hands and knees crawl. After we were in a passage big enough to fit all 16 of us, we continued through to the water crawl keyhole and flowstone plug. This was by far one of my favorite parts of the day. It reminded me of the Goonies movie where the kids were sliding down a cave water slide. After we were all through, we were soon in walking passage.
As I took the lead, we were coming to rimstone after rimstone and they kept getting bigger. Finally we were at one large enough that I had to slide over it and into the water. I was immediately submerged a foot or two under water and I couldn’t touch. At this time, people began jumping into the pools behind me. Some climbed back up and jumped in several more times. Loud splashing and laughing was had by all. We also began seeing large chunks of leather boot heel cutout’s from the old boot factory in town. After the series of large rimstone dam’s, we made our way through a series of rimstone’s that were in the process of being undercut. Disappearing water and whirl pools were common and it was extremely beautiful. Just before we got to the boulevard of bridges, a ledge snapped that I was leaning on and my right arm slammed into the rock ledge at full force. It is bruised pretty bad.
By this time Heather was getting exhausted, due to walking on the mud banks just before we got to the junction room. After we got to the junction room, the decision was made that Edmund and Barry would lead out Joe, Chris D., and Heather, due to Heather’s energy level, while I would lead the rest of the group through the Smith Sea “Earcrawl”, Which was the passage which was the discovery of the Nile river, on November 9th, 1968, a little over 41 years ago. We made the climb up the Aswan High Dam and Pit, the walls at the plunge pool were covered with foam from recent flooding, and up into the Egyptian Room. From there we made our way to the Keyhole and I climbed up the blue webbing and gold rope (who knows how old that stuff is) and got a look at the keyhole. That thing was ridiculously small! I can’t believe that people have fit through that thing!
After that we ate a lunch, returned to the Nile and began the long trudge through the deep water of the middle nile. Still accurate on the map is the deep water notation just before the Khartoum Room. Once in this room, several people climbed around to admire the sheer size of the room, while others regained their energy and took a break. L.J., Todd and I climbed down and around the back side of the breakdown mountain and the view of the room from this side was shockingly huge. This is one area that we have to return to photograph. After we had warmed up, we returned to the rest of the group, changed batteries and headed out. Some were faster than others, some with sore knee’s and pulled muscles, but we made our way through the neck breaker at a steady pace.
We arrived at base camp and continued past the Sphinx and into the Grand Canyon. We arrived at the Anti Gravity Pool and we took a few minutes to observe the wonder. The middle low portion of this pool was filled with foam from the recent flooding. We headed into the upper nile and into the Ocean where I thought we were done swimming. I was wrong, oops! We crossed the rimstone cascade terraces, and the rainbow terraces. We came up to a breakdown pile and we climbed out of the water for some dry walking passage for a little bit, then we stopped to eat and rest at this point. After we continued upstream again, I was walking along the ledges above the water on the right side of the cave. I was getting to the end of where I could safely walk, and I was getting ready to get back in the water when Edmund and Barry jumped out from under the ledge and screamed “Roarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!” It scared me pretty good, so I got them back by cannon balling off of the ledge and splashing them with water.
They went on to explain that they got Heather out of the cave safely, but Joe had to literally carry her piggy back through the walking areas, and drag her through the floating portions. He also carried her piggy back, ½ mile from the entrance back to our cars on the highway. Joe is twice the man I am for doing that. I couldn’t have done it! After that we continued out of the cave at a steady pace as the water got more and more shallow.
We had one last moment of humor as we came upon the cow pelvis that has been in the cave since the first time I was in the cave last June. L.J. grabbed it and put it on his head like it was some midevil war helmet. It was pretty funny and we got a good laugh out of it. Edmund tried it on too. A short bit of walking across the cobble and we were crawling and finally under the ear dipper at the Flaming River entrance. We waited for everyone to get out, then we did the final stoop walk out of the cave and into the valley, into the field and out towards the car. Kris Hartman was walking through the field to meet us coming out of the cave, and what timing! He didn’t even have to wait for us. We talked with him about the day’s events, got back to the cars and changed, then stood around talking around my Tahoe while Edmund told us stories about the adventures he had with Joe, Heather, Chris and Barry on their separate trip out of the cave.
This is where we made our mistake. Edmund had his helmet on top of my Tahoe while we were talking, then we all took off to head to town to eat. Unfortunately he left his helmet on my roof without me or him realizing it, and as of now, the helmet and its lights are lost. First man in the cave was 9:30 a.m. and the last man in was 10:00 a.m. The last person exited the cave at 7:30 p.m. for a total of 10 hours.
Echo Pit, Sunday, November 22, 2009
We met Richard Young at the Park Et then headed over to the Echo Pit entrance to Crevice Cave. This is Missouri’s largest single drop pit in the state, at 130 feet. We used Todd’s PMI Talon rope on this trip and after we arrived at the pit and everyone checked out the entrance, we rigged up and got ready to drop. I was the first one in, soon followed by Richard Young, Joe Nicolussi, Erin Tucker, Matt then Barry. I ended up sticking to the rule we agreed on in the morning of 4-5 people in, then 1 in and 1 out. I immediately climbed out after Barry got off rope, then I was up and out of the pit in about 4 minutes. I waited on the surface with the others, then Edmund talked me into doing some caving when we went back down. Joe had issues getting out due to his frog system being set up inefficiently for him, and L.J. set up his rig for the next time he uses it. Others went in, others came out, and Edmund and I ended up going in back to back. After that we removed our gear and went for a hike upstream with Richard and Matt. We checked out the dome on the left of the Y junction, and it was the first time Richard said he has seen it with LED lighting. I put my light on its 220 lumen setting and lit the dome up and reviled some amazing channels. Richard told us about the story when Jim Sherrel almost got trapped in the cave, and this particular dome was dumping in water in a solid sheet across the entire passage.
We went back to the Y junction and proceeded up the blue nile. When the passage got to crawling Richard turned back due to an elbow injury that was still healing. We continued on till we got to the large 80’+ dome on the map that I wanted to see. Edmund successfully climbed up the wall of the flowstone and into the upper channel. I threw him my helmet so he would have good lighting and he lit up the entire dome, which a lot of water was flowing in from. He found a dome to the right of the main dome, with another room in it with a large bowl shaped mud floor with a drain hole in the center. After he finished exploring his virgin cave passage, he successfully managed to down climb the flowstone without a flaw. 10 minutes later we were back in Echo Pit with our gear on and ready to climb. Bill, L.J. Laura, Todd were all hanging out there, and Barry was heading up the rope. Chris from Bloomington came down after Barry then Edmund and I climbed out on Tandem. I know people don’t climb out of Echo Pit on Tandem due to the tight squeeze at the top, but we figured what the heck. After 3 or 4 minutes we were both out of the pit and the rest of the crew continued up and out of the cave.
I have never been told thank you as much as my life, as I had this weekend for organizing this trip. Having everyone over at the house for a place to sleep, campfire, land owner permission for all 3 cave entrances used this weekend, leading trips, and just keeping the crew moving so we could keep a good time schedule. Lots were very appreciative of the hard work and I just want to return a thank you for coming over and getting in on the trips. I am just grateful that Gary and Barry knew where the entrance was to the Candle Canyon. It wouldn’t have been quite the same if even 1 person wouldn’t have showed up. Thanks to all, and I look forward to the next trip, whenever that may be.