Officers‎ > ‎Resources‎ > ‎Trip Reports‎ > ‎Highland County Survey‎ > ‎

April Showers Pit Bolt Climb, 28 November 2009

April Showers Pit Bolt Climb, 28 November 2009

Mark Minton

           Yvonne Droms and I arrived at Rick Lambert's house early in the evening on the Friday after Thanksgiving, 2009.  None of the cavers from Helictite Cave had yet returned, so we made ourselves at home, talked with Pam, and waited.  The muddy cave crew arrived around 9 PM.  Pam prepared a delicious spaghetti dinner while they cleaned up and told their tales of discovery.  Everyone was so muddy and trashed that the planned return to Helictite on Saturday was cancelled in favor of ridge walking and April Showers Pit the following day.

           On Saturday morning November 28 most of the crew begged off of even going ridge walking, leaving only Rick Royer willing to join us underground and Rick Lambert agreeing to lead us to the cave and hang out at the entrance.  We loaded heavy packs with bolt climbing and surveying gear, belay rope, and three static ropes to rig the entrance drops and the dome we planned to climb.  A 120-foot rope was perfect for rigging the steep slope and first drop, at the bottom of which a jug handle in the wall provided a convenient rig point for the second drop.  This avoided the problem of having a single rope from the surface go down both pitches and get pulled out of reach by cavers below.  The cave was very dry with only occasional ankle-deep pools in the main passage.  There was a moldy possum carcass not far upstream from the bottom of the second drop.

           Yvonne and I were in front, although we had never been in the cave before.  Since we were looking for a climbing lead up a dome, we went right past the downclimb on the right and through two awkward constrictions until we hit an obvious dead end at a small sump, getting slimed in the process.  We backtracked and met up with Rick R., who informed us that the dome was down the climb and around a corner.  This passage had been full of water on the original exploration, although now it was totally dry.  We quickly came to the dome, which had an obvious hole into blackness through breakdown at the top, maybe 25 feet up.  The climb looked easy with good rock for bolts, although the breakdown at the top looked tight and of questionable stability.

           Yvonne set up for belay and I free climbed onto a couple of ledges 3 or 4 feet off the floor.  From there I could reach a nice exposure of clean bedrock on the right wall for the first bolt.  After a second bolt on that side I switched over to the left wall just below the breakdown.  The walls and floor there were covered with deep mud.  One further bolt beside the first large block got me within reach of the hole.  It looked tight but doable, with alluring blackness above.

           I tried to squeeze through the hole while standing in my etriers but didn't quite fit.  After backing down I bashed on the main projecting rock, but couldn't make much progress with only a bolting hammer.  At least the breakdown seemed stable.  I removed all of my climbing gear, hung it on the last bolt and tried again.  Still too tight.  After more determined bashing I finally broke off a sufficient piece of the rock and squeezed through, getting completely covered with mud as I went.  From the top I was able to remove the offending rock completely, so future access will be easy.

           The climb took 1 hour and 40 minutes, including bashing open the squeeze.  At the top is another dome with a potential lead about 20 feet off the floor.  It will be an easy bolt climb up the highly inclined but not quite vertical back wall.  Out over the room below was a parallel pit that reconnected part way down, but which might also have a canyon going off to one side.  It would take a bolt or two to find out.  There was little if any airflow, although the main passage and entrance squeezes had noticeable airflow.

           Although we had the time and energy to continue the climb, my gear was so muddy as to be almost unusable.  We also didn't want to keep Rick L. waiting too long for what we had predicted would be a quick trip.  I set two bolts and rigged a static rope to rappel down, cleaning the climb on the way.  I also knocked off a lot of the mud around the top of the climb, so it should be possible to stay relatively clean next trip.  Rick R. tied up the bottom of the rope so that it will hopefully stay above water if the passage floods again.  We loaded up our heavy packs, including a dye trap that Rick R. had recovered downstream.

           Getting out of the cave was an adventure in itself.  Yvonne went first and had trouble getting up the last bit of the entrance slope, within sight of the surface.  Rick L. had already left, so there was no one to help her.  I came up next, but had trouble at the first squeeze at the top of the drops.  For a while it looked like Rick R. might have to help me get up so that I could help Yvonne, but I finally managed to reposition my pack and force my way through the tight spot.  From there I got up to Yvonne and gave her footing to get out, and then I followed.  We pulled both of our packs out using a long tether and then Rick R. came up.  He made it look easy, not even using the rope for the top bit.  It was just getting dark as we derigged the entrance rope and headed down the mountain.

           This was a challenging trip, even though we were only underground for about 5.5 hours.  It included a first for me:  digging while on a bolt climb!  If anyone wants to finish the climb feel free.  It should be easy.  Before I go back, I would want to enlarge the entrance squeezes and place a couple of rebelay bolts in the pits.  On the way home we paid a visit to Phil Lucas and filled him in on the events of the weekend.  Back at Rick L.'s we cleaned up and enjoyed another delicious dinner while telling our tale of the day.

PicasaWeb Slideshow