The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
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 vol. 41. iss. 1, March 2006
the people I had just positioned, while I lined up a sort of tag-team, perpetual Virginia Reel that passed Gregg along its serpentine middle, spanning stretches of muddy puddles or gracefully handing him down steep inclines of breakdown.

About this time I encountered Bill Thoman, chair of the Greater Cincinnati Grotto.  It was nice to see a new familiar face, and it helped distract me from the exhaustion that I was beginning to feel undeniably.  He had been caving all day in an adjacent county (along with Bob Dobbs and Willis Russell, if my memory serves correctly), and had been notified rather early in the evening of the rescue in progress at Sloan's.  They had maintained a dialogue with the local sheriff's department as to whether or not they were needed.  Ultimately, it was decided that they could be of assistance after all, so here they were, despite their own fatigue.  People I had never seen before were showing up in abundance now that we were nearly to the entrance.  I'm not complaining, mind you, but I could not help but wonder where all this sorely needed muscle was hiding out before now. 

Finally, the blaze of the lamps on Garbage Pit Hill proffered a heartwarming beacon home.  I cannot tell you the relief I experienced when that weird pink-orange glow come into view.  My fatigue fell away like the shroud of Lazarus; try as I may, I could not suppress a ridiculous grin (that must have seemed quite inappropriate to the newly arrived!).  Nevertheless, in this final moment of the rescue, circumstances arose in which I quickly developed an Attitude. 

I do not wish to offend anyone by what I am about to say (though perhaps it is inevitable), for the unity between rescue personnel and cavers was exemplary, but I feel compelled to comment on those


circumstances that I believe were excessive and untimely; a preoccupation with technique and equipment which overlooked and delayed the needs of the victim.  And, it is not the first time such superfluity has marred a rescue attempt on Garbage Pit Hill.  Were it so, I would probably refrain from remark.

The rescue personnel involved in setting up the belay system for the ascent of Garbage Pit Hill were gung-ho and well meaning; that is beyond question.  In fact, if anything, they seemed a bit too chipper to set very well with any of us who had been underground all night.  But at a glance the effects of the belay system were wailingly obvious to anyone who knows either practical rope work or the way to get up Garbage Pit Hill.  It was a very pretty system...and utterly impractical.  It looped around formations and encumbering boulders, and took no account of the timeworn route up the hill.  After the third "Wait a minute, we're tangled up again," I mutinied. 

Any of the numerous mountaineering feats we had encountered and surmounted thus far made Garbage Pit Hill look like child's play.  To see it taken with such neophyte seriousness and to be further delayed within ten minutes of the exit by errors in technical rigging (that was clearly redundant to start with) raised my hackles to the root.  Only people who had not witnessed the challenges behind us could have placed such untoward emphasis on protection for this easily hikeable hill.  I'm not saying the ascent should have gone unprotected, by no means.  But, frankly, this energy could have been far better applied by assisting in patient transport, or by protecting any of the truly threatening areas of the cave, hours behind us by now.   The situation on the hill had the unseemly resemblance to a game...and I was in no mood for games.


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