The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
Page 24 [contents] ||   ||  ||
 vol. 41. iss. 1, March 2006
who don't know every move of its ascent, and even with such knowledge, the risk of death is considerable.  In cowboy boots, I find it frankly unimaginable; but then again, in my experience Tom has always proven himself resourceful beyond imagination.  This used to be a perennial problem—trapped over-enthusiasts armed with a rope and a map, but lacking a veteran appreciation of this oubliette from hell.  However, a sort of caver Darwinism has selected against them over the years and the situation has not arisen in recent recollection.)  To hear Tom's gravelly baritone punctuating the somber proceedings with timely levity was a great comfort, refreshing my spirits for the haul still before us.    

Our next moment of pause occurred at the long-awaited landmark, the Hogback.  Towering above the void, this impressive hulk of breakdown offered several alternate routes, none of them inviting or devoid of risk.  John Young explored the lower route, while I sought a reasonably safe path among the crevices topside.  During this rather lengthy interruption of progress, several new factors were introduced.

During the course of the evening, everyone had found their individual niches of contribution to the rescue effort, settling into what best matched their unique proclivities.  Jerry Nichols, Wayne Hansen and Richard Hand tirelessly dealt with the field phones, coiling and uncoiling, connecting and reconnecting the thousand feet or so of phone cable that had been our lifeline to the surface since the second party had reached the Big Room.  Many others hauled fear, tackle and medical supplies as wordlessly reliable as pack mules.  Others had scouted ahead and set up belays over risky traverses skirting the numerous precipices that perforate the route along the way, so that when the patient transport party arrived,


everything was ready to go.  There was throughout the rescue operation a reticent cooperation between party members that rivaled the efficient labor of a hive of bees. 

In addition to helping carry the Ferno, I had been functioning as a self-assigned cheerleader/drill sergeant for most of the journey thus far, reminding everyone incessantly of the caution required toward Gregg's right arm.  I apologize to any of those who may have been ready to throttle me, silencing my annoying, nasal voice forever (my unfortunate hallmark has been likened to an effeminate Daffy Duck more than once!), but I knew we needed constant reminding to avoid accidental contact with the injury that caused Gregg his greatest pain.  I had made Gregg a promise back in the Big Room, and I'd every intention of keeping that promise. 

Anyway, given my apparent disposition, the ability of my voice to pierce the most tumultuous cacophony like a corps of bagpipes, and (hopefully) my familiarity with Sloan's, it was decided that I should act as the evacuation team leader (a term I did not know at the time, but was the title that Dennis Robertson of NCRC later used to describe my function with the rescue effort); my job being the organization of manpower and scouting the route for the remainder of the trek.  Gordon Muse, after a full day of work and several jaunts between rescue parties and the entrance, was very tired and, given that he is a soft-spoken fellow by nature, was not inclined to shout above the reverberating din to coordinate our progress.  And, in the ringing chambers of a cave, just the ordinary noises of a group of people joining together for a coordinated task can produce quite a clamor.  Besides, Gordon had his hands full with the actual transport of the Ferno and commanding its requisite manpower.  As I was doing a lot of shouting

Page 24 [contents] ||   ||  ||