Crevice Cave, September 11, 2011
On the previous night, Phillip Ellison met Kat, Jon and I at our “vacation home” in Brewer to camp out. In the morning we all went to the Park-et and met up with Brandon Wilson for breakfast. After we ate, we headed over to the historic entrance to Crevice Cave and headed into the cave. This was Brandon’s first time in Crevice, and it’s safe to say it was his first really long trip of any significant distance. I only say that because he could barely walk when we got out, but enough of that!
We made our way through the series of down climb’s and down to the main stream of the passage, and by this time Brandon was already drenched in sweat. We took a short break so he could shed his long sleeve poly base layer off so he would cool down. We moved along fairly easily after that; however, I did take time to dig out many of the mud filled foot holds in the Seminary Slip area. I know I dug more holds out in other areas as well, but for the most part, this is the spot I remember the most.
As we approached the traverse, Phillip began talking about how he was going to grab a big rock from the stream to haul up to the rock pile at the bottom of the traverse. When we arrived, here came Phillip with a large slab in tow. After we restacked the top layer for a larger boost, Phillip scrambled up the traverse, followed soon after by Brandon. After Brandon was up, I took this time to dig foot holds at the base of the rock pile, as I felt it was a good idea to have an easier approach to the pile. Once I was up on the traverse climb I dug in several of the holds that had been filled by countless numbers of cavers traveling over them and slowly filling them in.
Moments later I was across the traverse myself and I met up with Brandon and Phillip. We then headed down the crawlway towards the gate, and down into the gate. I took the time to show them where a possible wrong turn could be made when leaving the cave from past the Gate. Somewhere shortly before, or after the Mammoth Flowstone I scrambled up a mud bank with no foot prints in it, to a short crawl on the top. The others went past and said they could see my headlamp and Phillip said he was certain that I could safely down climb the wall on the opposite side. Knowing that, I slithered along the ceiling channel in a passage that was less than a foot high. Moments later I dropped back into the stream with them spotting me.
We then continued to a section with a high lead that had never been entered. I also climbed up the wall below this passage only to find Edmund’s foot prints from his previous trip in another area of the climb. I peered into that passage and saw a foot or two of ceiling height and many columns. After I got down I noticed we had been in the cave for 2 hours already. At that time I told them that when we reached the 4 hour mark, we were turning around no matter where we were as I had things to do in the evening and couldn’t be gone all day.
We reached the entrance to the crawl to camp pass and we had a discussion about a change in plans. Originally we planned on going to the bitter end of the Bends passage, but we decided to head past the camp crawl, past the pit rope rigged to get down into the stream from basecamp, and down to the 700’ crawl. We then planned on taking Brandon to the Big Room, then back past the waterfall passage, sinkhole pass and to base camp. Essentially one big loop then back out historic. As we approached the 700’ crawl, I began checking out all of the high paleo trunks that were clay filled. As we got to the huge breakdown before the 700’ crawl, I boosted Phillip up a huge flowstone on the left side of the passage just before the crawl started. I told him on the map that the passage ended with a flowstone. He said he saw passage up the top and crawled 20 feet into it to a column blockade.
Moments later I climbed up and joined him and we worked our way through the columns after I yelled into the passage, and we were met with a large echo in return. Moments later we emerged into a large room, maybe 30 feet in diameter, which was shaped like a giant funnel with passage at the bottom. On the opposite wall from the entrance was a sinkhole in the mud, leading down to another low passage under the wall. I slid down to the bottom of the funnel and into a crawl at the bottom. Downstream lead towards where we left Brandon and a flowstone choke. I then turned to go upstream and was met with a grim low muddy crawl that looked promising. Perhaps it would continue under the paleo trunk and break into more large passage?
We exited the room and met back up with Brandon and started the 700’ crawl. We simply followed the water route downstream through two intersection rooms and before we knew it, we were only a minute from the Big Room. The entire crawl wasn’t too bad, but the water was a foot deep in some places with 10-12 inches of air. I never had to remove my pack, but I did splash a lot of water onto my chest by crawling too fast.
We made our way into the Big Room and decided it was lunch time. It was at this time that Phillip and I began entertaining the idea of exiting through the Pipistrel entrance of the cave, since there was a lot less climbing involved, and in our opinion, it was an easier way out for Brandon as he was pretty tired already. I took this time to throw up in the corner of the room, but not from exhaustion, I simply ate too fast. After 10 or 15 minutes, we headed into what we call the sewer passage and made our way towards the Little Room. Brandon was breathing extremely heavy and took his time to lose one of his shin guards in the deep mud.
I told him that I wasn’t going to go look for it so we chalked it up as a loss. Once we were in the little room we gave Brandon a chance to rest as I went looking for the entrance to the other bypass crawl that takes you to the Big Room. I found it and headed upstream and promptly decided that I would never do that mud filled sewer crawl again between the little and big room, unless I am going to go check out the River Styx.
I called Phillip over, he checked it out and decided the same, then we headed down towards the Paradise Room. Brandon was shot by this time and not knowing how to walk on the mud banks was wearing him out as he decided to trudge through the deep mud in the stream instead. I then began to dig foot steps up every mud bank in the entire stretch of the paradise passage to help him getting up the mud banks. We had to take time to describe to him that he had to slam his heels down in the mud with every step and the easiest way to do that was to walk straight legged.
35 or 40 minutes later we arrived at the Paradise room, changed out batteries, ate a snack then headed out. Brandon was too tired to care about how awesome the formations in the room was, which amused me. Once we got to Merlins I took the time to take off my boots and straighten out my socks which had bunched up at my toes and became very annoying. Phillip took off into Merlins and Brandon followed him soon after, and I caught up with both of them at the top of the mud bank climb to get out of the water. We then made our way slowly out of the cave, laughing the whole time about how long of a walk we had once we got out of the cave. I have to note that on this trip we saw scores of catfish, white and green, more so than sculpin it seemed.
We entered the cave at 8:40 a.m. and I crawled out of the pipistrel entrance 3:40 p.m. with Phillip hot on my tail and Brandon about 4 hours past him. Ok not really, more like a few minutes. We stayed at the entrance, hiding in the weeds, until Brandon was out so we could get out of the cave property and into the street. We then walked up the street, through the tractor dealership, across the new Gilster Mary Lee truck parking lot, through a corn field, down the street, across U.S. Route 51 and behind the TG plant back to our vehicles. That walk only took us 35 minutes and was much easier than some hikes back to our vehicles down in T.A.G. country. It was a great trip, Phillip and I had a lot more energy left to burn, but Brandon had enough. He did great though, even though he was whipped bad, he still did a great job.