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Glade, March 26th, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010 Glade Cave Dig Trip Report

Nathan Farrar

I have been in need of a student caving friend, and I might have found myself one! After a
couple chats in my room about what I do every weekend, I invited Thomas Niskanen along on my next
trip underground – a trip to Glade Cave in Augusta County, on a search for a missing section of the cave,
reported to include “most of the cave”.

In a couple letters to Phil Lucas, then president of the Virginia Cave Survey, Bill Stephenson,
founder of the NSS, noted that after a survey trip into Glade, the landowner, then too old to traverse
the cave himself, explained in detail the cave as he knew it… including a section not found by the survey
team. On the surface, the landowner traced over the cave, both the mapped section and the section not
found, which he said was north-west of the current cave (towards and under the road). The landowner
also said that the connecting passage, which appears to have collapsed or filled, was within 200ft of the
cave entrance.

By looking at the map, I picked out all the dead ends that headed in the direction of the road
and were within 200ft of the cave entrance.

After having lunch in Charlottesville (Thomas makes great sandwiches!), we headed to the cave,
and got inside by 3:30pm. First, we headed to the north-most points of interest, to find that we couldn’t
reach one of them (Mahaj Tal) due to high water levels (as Yvonne predicted!). Neither of the northern
points of interest viewed looked as though they could have once been passable, so we headed south in
the cave.

I wanted to show Thomas as much of the cave as the high water levels would allow, this being
his first trip ever underground. As fortunately, all points of interest I had marked on the map were not
flooded, nor the routes to them. However, the water flooded the passages just beyond my last point of
interest, the one that looked most promising on paper, and indeed, the one we ended up digging on.

So, without checking the other points of interest south of the entrance, we began digging on
the south-most point of interest, as it was a filled passage, and easy to dig with the tools we had – a
crow bar and a hammer (it’s difficult to keep a large collection of digging tools in a college residence).
The passage was a canyon 20ft tall and 3ft wide at the base of the mud fill, which ran to the top of the
passage and included rocks up to 3-ft long, but manageable. I decided that the top of the fill would most
likely be the point where the least amount of fill would have to be removed to get to the other side of
the canyon (which considering the canyon’s size, must have had an impression continuation at some
point in the past, if not still so).

After digging for a couple hours, and after moving two of the larger rocks from the top of the fill,
we were able to look up into a throat in the ceiling from which water must come down onto the fill pile,
bringing with it dirt and rock over time. The throat only went up a foot and a half before going around
a breakdown block, out of view. In any case, up wasn’t the way to go, so we continued digging past the

throat, which was held stable by the thick mud matrix. After our dinner break, Thomas headed back
up to the dig face, while I check out the space cut into the canyon wall just a few feet from the dig (as
can be seen on the map). Surprised, I found that I could see up through some rocks in the ceiling there
into darkness. So I commenced a dig over my head. After getting the first rock out, and some mud, I just
couldn’t get the next rock to budge, so I decided to swap jobs with Thomas. Honest to God, it didn’t take
him two tries to get that rock out… (you know when the guy can’t open the twist-off jar, and the woman
gets it first try cause he “loosened it”… that was the case here). While I continued to scrap away at the
top of the mud fill, Thomas got a couple more rocks out and decided he couldn’t do much more there,
so it was time to swap again.

This time, I wiggled myself as far into the ceiling dig as I could, and continued to dig over my
head, bringing it down on myself bit by bit. The space was so tight that everything accumulated on me,
and then I had to back out to drop the dirt and rocks to the floor, just to repeat it. After climbing up this
vertical passage just over a body length, and within an hour of our swap, I wiggled my way up into the
space… and it turned out to be a small room that could fit two people max with a breakdown ceiling and
no exit… bummer.

We continued digging on the mud fill dig for another hour when we saw that it was almost
9:30pm, and I wanted to check out those other points of interest south of the entrance, so we packed
up and headed back. Thankfully (I suppose), none of the other points of interest looked as promising as
the point we had dug on. We got out of the cave just after 10pm.

As we walked back to our cars, I tried to find the place on the surface above our dig, half-way
between the two entrances, but there was no significant depression, so perhaps our dig was deep
enough that we weren’t digging directly into the hill side?

On a more pessimistic note, I’d like to include that the passage, following the dip, was rising in
elevation in the direction of our dig, but so does the rest of cave.

One more trip to this dig should prove whether that dig will be the key to the missing section.
Considering how great Glade Cave is for a beginner, I think I’ll leave that next trip for when I have
someone else to introduce to caving, or until I hear that someone else wants a stab at!

The myth remains a myth!