Crevice Cave, door to door, August 27, 2011
Today I met Dan and Phillip Ellison at the Park-Et in Perryville, MO at 8:00 a.m. We had a quick breakfast then drove over to Historic, where we changed, packed and loaded into Dan’s Chrysler and drove over to the tractor dealership next to Pipistrel. I had secured permission from the owners to park in their parking lot for the duration of the trip as I didn’t trust the little kids that Mr. Weinrich’s current tenant has. Sure enough as we walked to the cave, a 4 or 5 year old girl came running out of the house, chasing and yelling at a black lab puppy that was nipping at our boots. We all got a good laugh as the girl was only wearing a pair of underwear and no fear as she approached 3 full grown men wearing what I am sure to her appeared to be ridiculous costumes.
I entered the cave at exactly 9:20 a.m. and started my stop watch to keep track of our progress through the cave. After we were all through I put Dan and Phillip in the lead so I could “force” them to route find and try to recall where they went 6 months ago on the same trip. This also gave me the opportunity to take a few photos as we moved through the area. One major change I noticed was at the first sinkhole in the Pipistrel passage. The right side of the sinkhole which we always walked around, had collapsed into the hole, so you now had to climb down into the hole, just to climb out of the other side.
As we approached the Quamen Connection, both of them took off into the trunk passage on the left which fills in very fast and I corrected them down into the breakdown pile and helped imbed that into their memory. We continued over the traverse where Lower Pipistrel comes in and on down to the Perryville Road intersection. I promptly pointed this intersection out as the only real wrong turn you could make trying to get out of Pipistrel.
As we made our way through South Merlins I leaned on a large breakdown slab with a point on the end. Much to my dismay the rotten rock snapped in my hand, sending my chest down on top of the pointed end of the slab. This immediately bruised my chest and hurt like hell as I had just broken a rib 6 weeks or so previous in a tight passage in the Blackfathom River Cave. The injury wasn’t serious so we moved on and I tried to play the tour guide as best I could. Once we reached the intersection at Broadway I asked Dan if he wanted to see the gypsum passage, as he was the only one of the three who hadn’t seen it. A quick climb and we were all up in the passage admiring the gypsum on the right, and the wet dripping flowstones on the left. The last time Phillip or myself was here, the left wall was dry. In fact I had never seen any water dripping off the left wall before. After we went approximately half way through we turned around before we had to do any crawling or stooping and made our way deeper into the cave.
We passed the intersection at Independence, however I made sure to point out the easy indicators in the passage that identified where you were. We continued on downstream and into North Merlins. We made our way through the deep pools, the last of which I promptly slid into and got wet up to my chest. We made our way down the 8’ waterfall and I noted that the water flow was very low, but I must note that the water was very cold. After this point we began seeing many grotto sculpin; however, quite a bit upstream towards Perryville road, Phillip spotted a bass fish, 2” long, floating in a loan pool. He promptly threw him into the stream to give him a chance at survival instead of being stuck in a lone pool of water.
We then arrived at the area where the water passage continues; however, the easy route is to climb up a large flowstone on the left side of the passage and into a “high and dry” trunk, which had a lot of soupy mud in it as well. This was one point I made sure to tell them, the easy way is up, remember this waterfall, remember this flowstone, go up! We continued on all the way down to the muddy bank on the left where the route takes you up the hard bank and into the ceiling channel above the low and grim water passage. At this time I dug some steps into the mud to help facilitate movement up the hard slick clay bank, which is usually an extremely brutal climb for the people at the end of any group as it becomes soaking wet on top of the hard packed clay. A few minutes of crawling, stooping, and finally the water crawl and we were standing at the Merlins intersection in the Eternity Passage.
It was now 11:25, 2 hours and 5 minutes after entry. We took a couple photos of the passage heading towards the Paradise room and took time to say what to look for on the wall for the entrance to Merlins passage, besides the big arrow and the word MERLINS that I scribed into the mud long ago. As we approached the paradise breakdown pile, I pointed out the White Nile on the right and told them both it’s an easy shot to Echo Pit from here. We took a few shots of the breakdown climb up into the Paradise Room. At this point Dan changed his batteries then we moved onto the front of the room where we promptly headed up the Paradise Passage. Immediately we noted hundreds and hundreds of red wigglers in the mud which made the banks of the passage very easy going. We took a quick photo of the Sculpin Lane entrance, one photo of the general passage, and 30 minutes later we were at the Little Room.
Phillip and Dan moved into the breakdown area and we took another quick photo and I took the opportunity to show them how to find the route in this room as Dan promptly said that he didn’t remember this area at all. As we made our way down the rock slab, we entered the horrible smelling sewer crawl to the Big Room. I stopped at the intersection of the River Styx and made sure they knew, always stay left in this passage! Moments later we were into the last half of the passage which was now a hands and knees crawl in the sloppy foot deep mud with only a couple feet of air space. I do not remember this area being filled in this bad before. I always remember being able to lean on the mud for the most part, but never having to actually crawl.
After we got to the big room I made my way along the right wall to the entrances of Knox’s Folly. I had never been in this area of the big room as I had always gone straight up the mountain. At this point we ate lunch, changed batteries, and as I was only wearing a t shirt, I got cold pretty quick as this was our first real long break of any length. I got warmed up fast by moving around and taking photos. We only rested for 10 or 15 minutes and were on the move again. I showed them the easier route down the slope of the Big Room and we were off immediately towards the Waterfall Room. I pointed out the passage which is a 700’ crawl to the rope down climb after base camp, and we continued on, through the Black Pass and into the Intersection Room where we had a little fun.
I pointed out the loop that Paul showed me on the last trip in then we spent time exploring all of the dead end passages in the area, further assuring them that while the map looks tricky in this area, there is really only one route through. We then continued on towards base camp where we skipped the climb up into the upper paleo trunk which takes you to base camp, and stayed in the water passage. I pointed a second route up into the paleo trunk and then pointed to the direct climb route up the wall into base camp. We continued upstream and found half a dozen tooth fossils, passed up the Massive Breakdown room and continued to the intersection where the Bends passage forks off on the right. We noted lots of surface debris, as well as a few unbroken bottles, tin cans, shards of glass, and other garbage. After 5 minutes down the Bends we turned around, took a couple great photos of the massive breakdown then climbed up into base camp.
We took a good photo of the traverse to base camp, walked right through base camp and kept on trucking to the breakdown dome, half way down the south base camp passage, where the photo turned out looking like a crazy flying saucer in the ceiling. As we approached the rope traverse to get back down to main stream, where the 700’ crawl comes out, we decided to do the Crawl to Camp Pass. Unfortunately Phillip and I hadn’t done the crawl, and Dan wasn’t sure if we went high or low at the crawl. We decided to go high and follow the elephant tracks and I immediately found a small tube passage pinching off after a short distance. Since none of us felt like crawling anyway, we all went back to the rope and slid off the ledge. Phillip faced his fear at this point, as he took a very nasty fall the last time we were here. Several minutes later we were at the entrance to the Crawl to Camp Pass and I took time to note this intersection as well to them.
After a short distance, we were at the end of the new survey and Dan knew exactly where we were. We then went into the gate, and Dan and I both pointed out to Phillip, at the top of the third climb, how you could possibly take a wrong turn and go down a dead end passage for a ways before you realized you couldn’t go any further. Next up was the traverse crawl and at the Traverse, where we took a couple more photos and I shot a video clip as I walked across the traverse, down the steps, and down the chute. All this time I had my tripod and camera in 1 hand, and the other hand free to assist in climbing down the chute, where I managed to get down amazingly easy. I promptly assisted Dan and Phillip getting down safely as we were now on the home stretch.
After a quick food and water break, we were moving, taking time to note that at each major intersection, stay left! Going right would result in an unnecessary trip down a dead end passage, if your goal was in fact to leave the cave. I find this fact quite important as between the entrance and the gate, there is approximately 4.5 miles of cave mapped. That is definitely enough to ruin your day with a wrong turn after a long trip. As we approached the last climb up the 6th Crevice, the cool and cold air became warm and muggy. Moments later we were standing outside, at exactly 5:22 p.m. It took us 8 hours and 2 minutes to get through.