The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
page 24 [contents] (< prev) (next >)
 vol. 40. iss. 1, December 2005
Slot, which should be a very helpful handhold in the future. Since the cave is totally puzzling to us, we invited Jim to tell us what he thought of its geology. He followed us on our trail, repeatedly exclaiming things like, “Wait, we’re going under there? OK, you guys REALLY need to watch this rock, because this is NOT stable breakdown...”

When we arrived at the mud pit, Ben and Jim started scoping out the scene, and before long Jim was satisfied that there really were no natural anchors, and we would have to set a bolt to rig the pit. The next question was where the bolt would go – a question which proved so puzzling that we took a break to poke around the other holes that lined the passage. Ben went into the big room and hung a right, climbing a big breakdown slope that nearly touched the ceiling and then curved precipitously downward into a muddy funnel. Back near the mud pit, Jim and I belly-crawled out to a ledge that looked onto the room where Ben was. While Jim tossed rocks down the mud pit, I hollered things at Ben, who made his way to the bottom of the funnel. He could hear the rocks Jim was throwing, but couldn’t climb any closer towards the sound. He carefully picked a route back into the main chamber, saying he never wanted to go back down that sketchy funnel again, because the ceiling had tried to fall on him. Yecch.

So, we (that is, Ben and Jim) set to work planting a bolt. There were placement options, the first (and most solid) being a small dome that cut upward in the limestone ceiling above the pit. While it would be an easy spot for getting on and off rope, set in good rock, it would be a pain to set a bolt there (it was directly above the pit, and we had no good way to belay someone), and Ben did not want to learn in a painful spot. 

The second option was to find a “good” chunk of limestone in the rocks that lined the pit, and this took some doing.

First, Jim and Ben dislodged a couple big boulders, kicking them until they settled in the mud below the lip of the pit. Then they sat on them. This made me a bit nervous. Anyway, next they banged on the other rocks until they realized they were all probably just floating in mud, and not actual bedrock. Nonetheless, Jim found a good-sized chunk that didn’t wiggle when kicked, and which gave the proper ping when smacked with a hammer. This would be our rig point, right on the edge of the pit. The guys went to work, drilling a hole for a bolt in the top of the rock, so that the rope would run straight over the edge of the rock, hopefully at an angle unfavorable to excessive torque. They were about halfway done with the hole when Jim peered in and noticed something strange: water was flowing into it! The drill bit had intersected some strange mini-conduit in the rock, so a new hole was started a few inches away, where the rock still pinged. After seemingly endless pounding with the hammer, the hole was deemed deep enough, and the bolt placed.

Next, we had to figure out how to rig the rope, and where to back it up. We experimented with webbing slings and carabiners, finally reaching a point of pseudo-satisfaction: the rigging was OK, but it’d be better if we had another bolt.