Monster Pit, Friday, February 24, 2012
At 8:00 a.m. I drove to the site of the new pit and dumped off all of my vertical gear, hammer drill, and other digging tools then parked my truck at the land owner’s farm. Shortly after Edmund Tucker arrived and he dropped off all his gear as well then met me at the parking area. We then walked across the field in the 40* temp and 30 mph winds. Amazingly enough it was much warmer in the extremely shallow sinkhole. We quickly cut away all of the branches and small saplings in the sink and cleared a path to the new hole. Around 9:00 a.m. Ray Shaw, J.T. Henderson and Danny Henderson arrived and geared up and made their way over. The Henderson’s were over to microshave a wall in the extremely tight joint canyon which would allow access to the deep drop.
They made quick work of the shaving while Richard Young showed up to help Edmund, Ray and I do a land survey from a U.S.G.S. bench mark nearby to tie the cave into the U.S.G.S. survey. While we were doing this Richard Young showed up and we finished up the survey and started surveying into the cave down to where the shaving was going on.
While we were surveying from the surface down into the pit it’s self, we could hear the hammer drill running, followed by a series of taps, then a muffled explosion. This was the immediate precursor to various amounts of rock falling down into the deep chasm below. Every few minutes this same scenario repeated, over and over until Danny yelled up to us “I think we can walk through this now.” Shortly after he yelled something along the lines of “We have a deep pit here!” He said this as he was looking over the edge of the blast zone down into the canyon. He said it also looked very tight down below. The entire time this was going on, two bats had gathered in the blast zone and began mating, an act that continued throughout all of the blasting and subsequent drilling of a traverse line.
Shortly after we started the cave survey, the canyon was opened up and it was now possible to traverse over to the drop zone. I then moved down to the site and began bolting a traverse line to the wall at the top of the canyon to the widest part of the canyon. This was required as if anyone was to slip and fall making their way through this narrow canyon, a very nasty fate was waiting, one that I wouldn’t want to be a part of rescuing someone from.
Edmund joined me in the traverse once I got set into the main drop. I placed a third bolt and backed it up with a spectra sling around a natural flake column next to the bolt. While this was going on, Edmund felt something moving in his helmet. Somehow, a bat landed on his back or helmet and managed to crawl into his helmet through the back side. He could feel it crawling around, and he was yelling. It was quite humorous, mainly due to the fact that all of this was going on while we were rigging a very technical drop in the top of a 125’ tall canyon passage. What timing! Edmund got the bat out of his helmet and it crawled up the wall and we continued working.
The rig point chosen turned out to be the best one imaginable. It ended up being a free drop to the floor. After rigging I thought we were going to have to do more blasting as it looked TIGHT, way down below. I started the rappel as Edmund fed a tape measure down through the rig point, clipped to my cowstail as I rappelled down the canyon. Edmund was yelling out depths as I got further and further into the pit. It was tight everywhere, started around 3’ wide and was around 2’ wide most of the drop down until I hit what appeared to be a choke point. It looked like a double barrel shotgun barrel, or a figure 8 where the middle of the 8 didn’t quite touch, although it was only 5 to 6” apart. The barrels were around 10” wide and continued through the canyon off to the sides. I had to stop and unclip all of the vertical gear from my hips and clip it to my pack and let it hang down low. This was going to be tight!
My chest and back almost filled the entire portion of the drop and after 10 feet I broke into a large passage, 3 feet wide! This continued almost all the way to the floor, which ended up being 125’ below the ceiling, and 115’ below the rig point. Edmund joined me at the bottom and as soon as he was off rope another funny incident occurred. He yelled up to Danny, who was getting ready to get on rope, to bring his vertical gear down with him. Apparently Edmund forgot his ropewalker on the surface. But it gets better…..
Danny brought down his ropewalker, followed by JT, Ray and Richard. A tight canyon led off at the bottom of the pit to the east, and it led into another dome room which was 45’ high. Edmund easily free climbed this dome and found a canyon passage at the top which connected to the main dome. He was at this perch when Ray was rappelling through the shotgun barrels and they were able to easily look at each other. While Edmund was up in the dome he found a large shell fossil that he tossed to the floor. Several bats were also seen flying around. Every lead that he could find was checked; however, no leads were found. Whatever passage that continues from this pit, must be buried in the mud.
One interesting thing to note about the geology of the pit, is it had chert nodules at the surface, horn corral at the top of the drop, and horn corral throughout the entire drop all the way to the clay filled floor. We then began surveying the floor of the cave while some began climbing back up to the surface. No leads were found in the entire cave, but to the east of the entrance, the surface immediately starts cutting down into several large sinkholes . I have no doubt that these sinkholes would cut the top 50 to 60 feet of the canyon passage off of the top of the cave if the trend continued.
Edmund then climbed to the top of the canyon on the rope and strung his 300’ tape measure from the highest point in the ceiling channel above the rig point. It taped out at 125’ and 115 from the rig point. Moments later Edmund yelled that he was getting on rope to come back down. Moments after that, he yelled “Can someone tie my rack to the rope so I can pull it up?? Instead of doing that we simply had Ray climb out with it so Edmund could come back down. Edmund definitely provided a day full of humor.
While all of this was going on we started the survey at the bottom of the pit and I sketched everything up while Edmund made his way back down, JT climbed up, followed by Richard and Edmund. After Edmund and Richard were both at the top of the drop, they began surveying from the surface survey, through the traverse and to the plumb at the rig point, to tie into the surface survey. All of this was going on while I was climbing out of the pit and sketching the pit profile as I made my way to the top. The last few survey shots were yelled down to me and I sketched everything on the way out.
Once I was at the top of the drop, Danny climbed out and we set one more bolt in a spot that would provide a free fall with no rope pad needed at the top of the drop. After we finished, Danny climbed out to the surface while Edmund and I derigged the pit and hauled the gear up the drops and handed everything to Richard. The survey ended up showing the pit has a depth estimated to be approximately 142’ deep to the bottom of the drop. While we were mopping up the survey, the land owner came over and spoke with Ray. He told him that 5 pigs once fell in the pit and died, and he told him a story about a pond next to Red Bull cave draining to Bader Spring and not Gilliam Spring.