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. 2, June 2006
dog that had followed us back and was wreaking havoc on our camp.

Saturday
We headed off to the Post Office entrance (a 25’ chimney) at around 11:00 am.  Two of our group decided that they valued their sleep more than a day of caving.  I told them that we would be topside easily by 6:00 pm.  This put our group number down to seven but was one of our greatest mistakes because the only other member of our group who knew the cave was staying topside.  The trip should have been called off at this point or drastically changed. One experienced caver is not enough for six greenhorns, no matter how physically fit; for the record two “guides” are not sufficient for seven people either.  The ratio of experienced cavers who knew the cave to those who did not was WAY off, and this is the most basic safety rule.  
    I used a 70’ 8mm hand-line and a Munter hitch to lower everyone down the chimney, although it can be free climbed (but is fairly dangerous).  Once in Sloan’s we spent some time wandering around and I took the group on a number of side tours on the way, which used up
more of our time, but at this point everyone was excited, in good shape, and having a great time.  Everyone got their fill of crawls, river passage, and big rooms.  I took them past the Fountain of Youth, which they later saw from the bottom, and to the Big Room’s north overlook.  I knew that the water level would be high, and that it might not be possible to take the Appalachian Trail bypass.  The first sign of high water was in the stream passage under the Fountain of Youth.
    Tempus fugit; and our time was running low
so we decided to make for the Garbage Pit with

 no additional side trips.  I had forgotten that the bolts at the Big Room’s south overlook had been cut, but I lowered everyone off a dependable protrusion of rock (if you’ve been there you probably know exactly what I’m talking about).  I kept everyone “on belay” until they had walked safely off of the ledge below this 8’ drop. I knew that this climb/drop had resulted in someone breaking his back and likely many other accidents so I was especially careful.  I lowered myself and took a moment to think.  We were running out of time, the fatigue was beginning to weigh on everyone, and we had as little as 40 minutes of caving ahead of us before we would be at the Garbage pit, whereas there was more than 2.5 hrs of caving behind us, mostly elevation gain, and some tight places.  Knowing that with the time it would take to belay everyone back up without a clean anchor we would be hours late and exhausted. I pulled the rope down. 
I knew that in the worst case scenario we might have to swim, but that the entrance was not far past the First Lake Room and that we would want the rope for the lake.  This was the most critical moment and it was when I realized that we had only two choices, and that both choices involved significant danger.  Weighing the choices, I chose to head for the Garbage Pit because we could avoid Jason (who was topside) calling for help, and because we could be out of the cave sooner, which was becoming more important as people were getting more and more fatigued. I should not have weighed the likelihood of Jason calling for help; all that mattered was getting everyone out safely.  Furthermore I should not have conducted a pull down trip without knowing for sure that the way ahead was passable; passable for EVERYONE, not just me.

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