The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
Page 07 [contents] ||   ||  ||
 vol. 41. iss. 2, June 2006
Rescue at Sloan’s
Commentary by John LaMar Cole (BGG)

    When Kentucky Caver editor, Art Cammers, asked me to write about the May 27-28 rescue in the Sloan’s Valley Cave System, I was reluctant to submit a report regarding an incident in which I was only peripherally involved, though I knew a good deal about it that the news media had either neglected or just simply bungled beyond all reckoning.  Steve Gladieux, the leader of the ill-fated trip, is a friend of mine and an up & coming caver of considerable talent and merit.  We have caved together several times, Steve always proving himself exceptionally strong, intelligent, reliable and competent.  I have no doubt that, in short order, Steve will be widely known as a caver of the highest calibre.  So, instead of risking journalistic error, I decided to call Steve and ask if he would write the report himself. 
    Handsome & hard-bodied, with charm and maturity far beyond his twenty-one years, Steve is a multifaceted outdoorsman and rockclimber with an impressive roster of experience and training.  He has already participated in a 50-hour survey trip in the Fisher Ridge System and is scheduled for yet another such marathon later this month.  He is not some clueless college kid taking caving “shortcuts” that the television stations portrayed him to be (any more than the rescue was staged in “Greenhouse Cave”, as
WKYT erroneously reported).  He is a damn good caver.  I am sure today, after such an embarrassing and challenging ordeal, he is an even better one. 
    I had lent Steve three helmets & lights to help outfit his entourage when they rolled in from Ann Arbor, Michigan Thursday night, May 26, on their way to the Red River Gorge.  They planned to camp behind Miguel’s and hit the sandstone the following morning.  After their day of climbing, they headed south to set up camp on Tom Crockett’s property for a weekend 

of caving at Sloan’s.  I need explain no further as Steve does a superlative job in the trip report.  Saturday night found me reveling with cavers and other kindred folk at a “Gemini Party” held at Natasha’s Café, in honor of those of us celebrating birthdays in close proximity to the weekend (mine was Sunday).  Consequently, I was not aware of the rescue in progress.  Steve & crew had planned to join us at the restaurant for a birthday toast but, when they didn’t show, I figured that their day of caving had taken longer than anticipated.  Little did I know.  I ventured home after one a.m. and did not check my phone messages. 
    Around seven in the morning, as I was enjoying my first sips of coffee, I checked my voicemail.  I nearly choked when the robot announcer droned, “You have 15 new messages...” I had deleted all my messages before leaving for Natasha’s, so all of these had to have arrived after 9:00 p.m.  It was then that the saga of the previous evening began to unfurl before me, one disturbing voicemail at a time.   Jim Currens, Pat Horton (Johnson), Art Cammers, Tom Crockett and Channel 27 were among the chorus of concerned voices, most assuming I was already at Sloan’s in the thick of the rescue.  I immediately thought of Steve and his party of caving initiates, each message making me more anxious than the last.  I called Tom.  In spite of confirming my fears, I was very relieved to hear that the rescue was over, that everyone was safe, and that
Steve and his group had rented a motel room for hot showers and some R&R. 
    Later in the afternoon WKYT phoned, wanting to interview me as a “caving safety expert.”  They did not mention the rescue.  When they showed up shouldering a videocamera, it was breezily explained that they were doing a report on cave safety, asking me if holiday weekends increased the risk of caving accidents.  I thought this a dubious, thinly-veiled premise, but half-heartedly agreed.  It was I who


Page 07 [contents] ||   ||  ||