Adventures in the New World
Thursday, 18 December 2014 – Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Although Id had to return to a part of Canada with no caves, a year without caving was simply unacceptable. Id met Mike and Andrea Futrell, a pair of American cavers from Virginia, on Cambridge expo over the summer which seemed like an excellent opportunity to get some caving in and meet some cavers on this continent. The only downside ‘ 11 hours of driving to get there! Luckily a Peachey appeared in December, and as soon as finals were over, we set off for the land of freedom! Fuck yeah, Murica!

Although crossing land borders is a bit more of a challenge in North America than in Europe (Peachey was relieved not to be subjected to the rubber glove treatment), we made good time driving down and got there at the early hour of 10:30pm after nearly 14 hours of driving. Fun times! We watched through the window as Mike skidded across the floor cheering, which pretty much set the tone for the weekend.

The next morning, Mike and Andrea had to work, so we went for a walk along part of the Appalachian Trail to a viewpoint called Kellys Knob (yes, go ahead and laugh). Lacking a map, predictable navigational error ensued as we missed the turning off the main trail. We did manage to find the path on the way back without any run-ins with gun-toting rednecks, which was a plus.
On the way back we stopped to admire a “historical covered wooden bridge. However, it was built in 1916 so Peachey left a note commenting on this beautiful example of a contemporary wooden bridge.

And then, the caver parties.

First was the local caver pub, The London Underground. Ironically, it was a very American-style bar. Good food, though, and lots of cavers. Next was a relatively civilized party where we stood around drinking eggnog, eating chocolate, and talking about all things underground. Lastly we headed to a true student caver party at a shared apartment on Clay Street, the Blacksburg equivalent of Brudnell Mount. Here Mike quickly lost his trousers in a game of strip beer pong. We left once Mike had recovered his clothing but not before a substantial amount of beer had been consumed!
The following day we headed out to go caving much earlier than any of us would have preferred. At the Bat Ranch we met up with Mike Ficco, Philip Schuchardt, and Joe Calderone, who would be surveying a different area of the cave where we were headed. A further two-hour drive past billboards for guns, Christianity, and Southern X Posure got us to Stompbottom Cave. The walk up to the cave was distinctly Dales-esque, but with more brambles.

Descending the narrow entrance rift a careful wriggle was required to avoid what remained of Gertrude, the unfortunate cow that had fallen in over the summer and was now mostly soup. We were pleasantly surprised at the temperature of the cave ‘ a balmy ~12°C! After the entrance rift, the cave opened up into a series of large, boulder-floored chambers with progressively less raccoon poop. Shortly we reached a junction where Mike, Andrea, Peachey and I split off from the other team. We were surveying a meandering side passage with a small active stream whilst the other team pushed a different lead further on. We surveyed several hundred feet, going up and down the canyon to find the best way through when ‘ voices! Turns out the lead we were pushing was the Sam Allshorne passage as the lead the other team was pushing. We linked the two surveys then turned around to push a couple leads wed found on the way in.

The first was small and didnt go very far, ending in a large boulder. A way on could be seen through a crack but would require some advanced digging techniques.

The second quickly dropped us into known passage, with another convenient lead right across from it. This lead was very small but went quite a ways. From the start, we could see a ~45ft flat-out crawl after an entrance squeeze. Peachey set off to explore and much to our disappointment reported that the passage continued. I followed first with survey instruments while Mike did book behind me. The passage continued for a couple hundred feet of flat-out, often muddy crawling with two or three more squeezes. Eventually Peachey reported that there was another tight squeeze up ahead, but that it opened up afterwardsenough to crouch! Mike and I carried on through and got to briefly enjoy being vertical. Although the passage looked like it continued to open up, we decided to leave the survey there and take some photos on the way out of the cave.

The ulterior motive for getting out of the cave early was yet another caver party. This one had been going for 9 hours by the time we showed up, so some people were very merry already. Very spicy chili was consumed and there was a (thankfully) brief incident where the host lost his pants.

The next day, we opted to sleep in. Finally something resembling a holiday! We resisted the temptation to sit around and drink beer all day, mostly due to Mikes excessive enthusiasm, and headed out to Dulaneys Cave. An impressive entrance fissure set into an imposing rock outcrop just behind a haunted house led to a series of thrutching squeezes, including one over a raccoon skeleton. It opened up shortly before a 125ft pitch with really cool rock banding. The contrast with the previously constricted passage made this pitch feel even bigger. We followed a series of cascading pools partway before climbing up into the rift to a dry second pitch. Unfortunately a bat (Eastern Pip) had decided to hibernate on the backup to the pitch! Mike carefully photographed the bat then we decided against moving the bat or descending the pitch and risk waking it. As white-nose syndrome has so thoroughly decimated the local bat population, remaining healthy bats here are particularly precious. So, slightly disappointed not to be able to reach the majority of the cave, we opted to continue down to the head of the next pitch on the direct wet route and photograph the cascades. We made it out in time to go eat dinner with a couple other cavers then sat around talking and drinking posh beer all night.

The next morning, we cleaned our kit*, packed up, and left for home. This time we opted to split the driving over two days for sanitys sake and were back in Canada by the 23rd. Cheers to Mike and Andrea for hosting us, and all the local cavers for letting us hang out!

*Kit clean post caving in a white-nose area consists of two parts:

1) Clean mud off as thoroughly as possible
2) Soak all equipment in disinfectant then rinse thoroughly
More info on white-nose

Images
Stompbottom entrance
Posted by: Katey Bender
Size: 139kb
Width: 600 pixels
Height: 450 pixels
Posted: 26 December 2014
The American contingent
Posted by: Katey Bender
Size: 70kb
Width: 600 pixels
Height: 450 pixels
Posted: 26 December 2014
Dulaney’s entrance
Posted by: Katey Bender
Size: 151kb
Width: 600 pixels
Height: 450 pixels
Posted: 26 December 2014