The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
page 15 [contents] (< prev) (next >)
 vol. 40. iss. 1, December 2005
Next it was my turn: I left my helmet on (I'd abandoned my pack long ago), and squeezed myself through a slight constriction in the muddy passage. Once on the other side of that, I had to shove myself into the six-inch-deep water and belly-crawl through it, around an S-curve; after about 10 feet the ceiling rose, and I could stand up. The room had a bank made of stream cobbles, plenty of stalactites and soda straws, and a 15-foot ceiling! Ben had let Tony run ahead - "Ben, have you been back here yet?" Tony called out. "No." "Man, it's huge! There's tons of stuff back here!" Now completely wet, I stood dripping on the bank for a few minutes, and then we went to check out the room beyond. The floor was slippery, mud-coated breakdown slabs; the ceiling was flat, well above our heads, and the walls were 30 feet apart.

AWESOME! Tony was visibly excited; Ben and I were wary, because we didn't really know if the passage was virgin or not. Tony was beyond this initial room now, in what seemed to be an even larger space. "Eeerrrr," I called out. "Stop! Do not pass go, do not collect $200! It's time to survey." We reluctantly made our way back through the tight spot, the belly crawling, the soupy mud (it was getting really impressive since we'd passed through it a few times: slicker than snot, you could give yourself a shove and slide a good distance now), across the stream and back into a main room where we knew there was a survey station.

We'd forgotten the survey notes in the car, so we picked a station that should be an easy tie-in later, and I assigned Ben to do point (since he wears a carbide lamp!) and quickly taught Tony to read instruments, while mentally prepping myself to sketch. Within five stations, I'd given up actual sketching: 

everything was totally smeared with mud, especially the compass/ protractor I was using to draw, and I was cold, wet and frustrated. Then Ben's lamp went on the fritz because of all the mud, and we sat for a while as he messed with it. Finally we could start again, and we decided to just run a survey line towards the tight spot, and Ben would help me reconstruct the sketch later (it was really, really horrible surveying. I swear!). Soon after that the tandem compass/clinometer...er...got some mud inside it, and Tony declared he couldn't read it. I managed to make out the numbers, so I started reading instruments and keeping book. By the time we reached the tight spot, I was completely frustrated from dragging my filthy pack, keeping my gloves strapped to the outside of it, surveying, and dealing with the mud and water and tight conditions. To shoot through the tight spot, Ben took enormous pity on me: He crawled back and lay in the water, and then backsighted because there was no way I could get my head behind the station he'd set at the beginning of the S-curve.

Then I lay before the tight spot, unable to turn my head with my helmet on, not wanting to take it off because it would be one more thing to drag through the water, and began to curse and wail: pack, instruments, book and I all had to get through the tight spot and water, and I had no idea how to do it in one trip. I was totally having a Moment. Ben got frustrated, because there was nothing he could do to help, but finally he crawled to me, took the book and instruments, and then I attached my pack to his boot and he crawled back to the new passage. As I lay there, I described the horrendous conditions: "Y'know, whenever I was crawling through the Mini-Miseries [in Jewel Cave], I would say, 'This could always be worse...it could be wet! And this is about the size of the Mini-Miseries, too...'" Oh man, it really sucked.