Crevice Cave, Saturday, March 3rd, 2012
The day started out like any other. Caver’s getting up around sunrise, packing the final contents of their cave packs and getting their lunches and snacks finalized. Chad and Kat McCain made their way to the Park-et Restaurant in Perryville, from Barnhart with their friend Kristy Hajny from Nebraska. They met Kristy while Kat attended KSU in Manhattan, Kansas. This would be Kristy’s 3rd trip into the cave and 2nd 5 mile door to door trip. Chris Doerhoff and Shawn Williams car pooled down from the South Side of St. Louis. They met up with Erin Thomas and Phillip Ellison who blew in from Murphysboro, Illinois who already had a table at the restaurant when the rest of the cavers arrived. Tyler Allen was the last one to arrive as he drove down by himself from O’Fallon, Illinois.
The decision was made to go into the Historic entrance and come out of the Pipistrel entrance, in light of the 35 degree temperature upon exit, the idea to leave the vehicles at historic and hike back to Historic, a brisk 30 minute walk, proved to be a bad idea. The group moved into the cave at a brisk pace, taking a series of high and lower routes throughout the historic portion of the cave. When Chad stopped and had everyone regroup, Phillip stated that he had seen a snake fossil in the crawl way. Shawn, Phillip, Tyler and Chad made their way back through the crawlway to the fossil to photograph it. As of this time, it is being referred to as a snake fossil as it is highly unlikely that it is a fish.
As they group arrived at the traverse, Chad and Phillip carried up two large chert slabs to pile up on the rock pile below the traverse climb, to make the climb easier. After the crew made it up the climb and across the traverse, they made their way through the “gate.” This constriction used to be a 7.5” choke point that kept out all but the smallest cavers. Several years ago a boulder was dislodged from the ceiling of the gate, effectively making it 11 to 12” high, opening it up to many more people. When they made it to the fire hydrant, they noticed a larger amount of water than normal was pouring out of the ceiling.
The next stop was the climb up to the base camp passage. After the group made it over the sinkholes at the entrance and into the crawling passage of soft clay, they popped out into the larger passage. Chad stashed a full quart of oil on the wall at this intersection that he found further back in the cave as well. The group then decided to do a small side trip to the end of North Base Camp Pass. At the bitter end, Chad set up his camera and tripod and took a group photo. Another photo was taken in the passage as they made their way to base camp. Once they arrived at base camp it was lunch time. Another series of photographs were taken at base camp, looking downstream from the intersection. In all 7 of the cavers were in the photograph in various points, lighting up the room, while Chad stood behind the camera lighting up the passage in the fore front of the photo. The long exposure and head lamp method was working great.
After they set out downstream towards the big room, they noted that the water seemed very polluted. The floor of the passage under the water was white, and when they walked through it, it mixed up the white, turning grey and black. The group made a detour at the waterfall room then made the climb up into the Big Room. The easiest place to climb up into the big room is not the larger 6 to 8 foot vertical drop. You have to crawl under the ledge where the crawlway starts to the Little Room and immediately climb up the breakdown side (to the right) of the sheer wall climb into the big room. There are two routes up at this point, a wider chimney climb, and a tighter crawl climb, so experienced and inexperienced cavers alike can easily make it up into the Big Room.
They didn’t spend much time in the Big Room and instead of climbing back down the way they came up, to take an alternate route to the Little Room, they opted to put Shawn and Tyler through the sewer crawl to the little room since they were the only two who had not been in this part of the cave. Fortunately for everyone, when they started the crawl the floor seemed much lower to Chad and Phillip, who had just been here a few months ago. They discussed that it seemed that the floor of the muddy passage had dropped almost a foot. It was full of frogs and salamanders as usual, and even the larger passage of the mud crawl at the intersection of the River Styx seemed to be easier to traverse.
Another break was taken in the Little Room before heading down the Paradise Passage, which also was different. The footsteps that Chad dug into the mud banks on the last trip were still visible, but they weren’t needed as walking in the water in this passage was much easier than normal. Instead of sinking in a half a foot of mud with each step, they only sunk in about an inch or two at the most. They made it to the intersection where Sculpin Lane where they stopped to regroup, change batteries and take a quick breather. It had only taken 10 minutes to get to this point, and a few minutes later they were standing in the Paradise room.
A couple of quick impromptu photos were taken of the entrance to the Paradise room with the large orange formation in the back ground. No time was wasted making their way to the downstream side of the room where they strung out across the breakdown for a quick photo of the large area. While a panoramic shot was taken, unfortunately the right half of the photo was out of focus, but still showed the sheer size of the room up the breakdown mountain.
The group cleaned out boots, changed batteries and took a quick rest at the Merlins/Eternity Passage junction. The question was raised about possibly walking towards the Eternity room for 10 or 20 minutes, but Kat’s knees hurt and Chris’s hip was hurting. The call was made then to simply exit the cave with no side trips. The crew made a fast pace up Merlins with a few slips and slides here. Unfortunately Chad compressed his neck when he ran head first into a ledge outcropping as he was looking at his feet and walking. Headaches ensued for the next two days until he went to the chiropractor. Chad also slipped in a pot hole and got soaked head to toe, and a couple others slipped in water making loud splashes and laughter as well.
Exiting the cave wasn’t too bad, but there was a pool of water right at the exit, just inside the view of daylight. This resulted in everyone getting their front side wet upon exiting in the cave, at approximately 5:15 p.m. They had been in the cave just over 8 hours and thus began the walk back to the vehicles. It wouldn’t have been too bad except for the wind that was blowing like crazy. Everyone was very cold upon reaching the vehicles. It was quite humorous trying to change clothes, untie shoe laces and button jeans and zippers with frozen hands. Shawn, Chris and Tyler headed home while the rest ended the night at El Torerros in Perryville.