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
I could not help but recall the circus that ensued in the 1992 rescue for the young man who had broken his ankle, the injury occurring within a ten-minute walk of the base of Garbage Pit Hill.  A preoccupation with gadgetry and a mob-like approach to rescue resulted in large speleothems in the are being sledgehammered to rubble (in the event they might get in the way—which they weren't by a long shot), and the injured man spent hours strapped in a litter, which was not only redundant, but put him at great and utterly unnecessary risk of hypothermia.  Cavers who had offered assistance were curtly rebuked.  Any of us who remember this rescue shudder at its excesses and inefficiencies.  I personally cannot walk past the needlessly destroyed formations—which we once believed were the result of vandals, but have since learned otherwise—without a twinge of anger and disgust.  Now, confronted with a similarly misplaced energy after a night of superhuman toil, my resources for genteel propriety were quite depleted.

"Excuse me," I yelled at the hill people, "You are not in charge here."  We unclipped the belay (that offered no protection from an enormous pendulum), the drag over rocks and its lack of taking the ascent route into consideration being its primary drawbacks.  From here we easily passed Gregg uphill to the next belay station, which was also fraught with difficulties.  Tangles and unanticipated friction problems stalled the ascent time and time again. 

Just as we were nearing the large formation at the crest of the hill, the halogen lights—which had illuminated unpeopled emptiness for most of the evening—went out.  My patience was spent. I scurried over the complex coils of rigging, climbing around the large formation at the hillcrest known as The Guardian in order to position myself at the head of the rescue team.  Gregg was nearly to the top of the hill.  My noisy services were no longer required. 


Outside, dawn was just beginning to stain the seamless cloud cover with light.  A spitting drizzle was falling as the crew above prepared to lift Gregg from the pit.  The ionized scent of rain wafting upon each delicious caress of outside air was a welcome change of atmosphere.  I had smelled enough of mud and sweat for one evening.  Maybe enough for an entire weekend.  It was a couple minutes before seven, Sunday morning.

After Gregg was carried into the open air, I shielded his face from the rain as we waited for someone to retrieve the abandoned “spider” so Gregg could be lifted out of the pit.  Mike Harrington crouched once more beside us both, having never left his brother’s side for the entire ordeal of the rescue.  Emotion whelmed up in Gregg, but it was not yet thankfulness or regret; it was bitter anger that, for one unthinking moment, his life had been changed forever. 

My heart went out to him as he lay there, strapped onto the Ferno, about to cross the threshold into an entirely new phase of the rescue; the part where it was as much up to Gregg to save himself as it was to the medical personnel to repair his injuries and guard his precious life.  I remember thinking, “That’s right.  Be mad.  Be fighting mad.  And fight your way back to those people who love you.  It is the best reward any of them—or any of us—could hope for.”

None of us knew as we huddled there against the rain what the outcome would be.  All we knew was that the cave was behind us, and for that single blessing a thousand alleluias were vaulting heavenward with every breath of fragrant air.  Despite the grey sky and drizzle, it was a beautiful morning. 

The “spider” retrieved and reattached, Gregg was lifted from the twenty-foot pit amid applause and a

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