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Helictite, December 16th, 2009

La Fin Du Monde, Part Deux by Chris Woodley

    I met up with Scott Wahlquist and Nathan Farrar in Verona at 7:45am to ride together over to Lucas' for another shot at La Fin Du Monde, the muddy lead that Nathan pushed in the back of the cave the day after Thanksgiving.  Scott and I were more prepared for the trip than last time.  We brought PVC suits.  Nathan didn't need PVC because he has youthful vigor.  On the ride there, we made predictions for what we were going to find.  A couple of us thought we might find 15-20 feet of passage.  Another thought we would find a huge raging river whose current was so swift we would need air powered cannons to shoot grappling hooks to set up tyroleans in order to cross.  What we actually found was somewhere in between but far closer to 15-20 feet.  It was also during the ride that I found out that Nathan had been up since 3am studying for a final he had to take on Sunday.  Actually, he was supposed to take it Saturday but convinced his professor to let him take it on Sunday so he could go caving.  It made me feel good to be old and not have to take tests anymore.
    In my never ending quest to cave naked, I've been methodically reducing the amount of clothes I cave in.  (Don't worry, this isn't going to get weird and there is something to be learned here.)  I put my PVC suit in a large cave pack along with another smaller cave pack and the rest of my cave gear.  My plan was to cave in just polypro and shorts to Crimea River and change into the PVC suit and use the smaller cave pack for the rest of cave.  It worked well on the way in as we made good time to Crimea River, Chocolate Way, and into La Fin Du Monde after entering the cave shortly before 10am.
    The 100-foot crawl that starts La Fin Du Monde took us about 20 minutes to traverse and we were thoroughly covered in mud.  Scott changed into his red fuzzy long johns while Nathan and I looked around to see what we had.  The canyon at floor level pinched off quickly but we could see that the passage was much larger up about 12 feet up so Nathan climbed up.  The passage was indeed larger.  Nathan headed back towards Scott (downstream) and found himself directly above Scott.  Now is a good time to mention that the rock is just like the rest of the cave, pretty weathered.  Nathan carefully worked himself around on a ledge to make sure he didn't knock anything down on Scott.  The passage continued on for 10 or so feet before ending.  While Nathan was doing this, I crawled into a low passage that looked like the continuation of the Chocolate Way that terminated in both directions in breakdown.  I then climbed up to Nathan and we checked out upstream.  The larger passage ended upstream like it did downstream, breakdown.  The only difference being a small canyon in the northwest wall.  We detected slight breeze coming out of it and Nathan crawled in.  He checked it out for a couple of minutes before heading back.  We went back to Scott and started surveying.
    For most of the survey, Scott was point man, Nathan was the back man, and I kept book.  In order to get to the upper passage, we had to survey through some breakdown.  With a little trouble, we made it in a couple of shots.  I was able to write down several quotes from this part of the survey.  They include:
-"This one is going to be a bitch."
-"Shit's crumbly back here."
-"He's a survey ninja."
-"Yeah, I'm the shit."
It was also decide that a buttery nipple was the official drink of the survey.  Unfortunately, none of us had any nor had any idea of what one was.  Anyway, the upper passage trends along strike and is about 80-feet long, 10-feet wide, and 6-feet tall.  The ceiling dips at about 15 degrees to the northwest and is made of the ripply layer that is seen throughout the cave and the floor is weathered breakdown.  We surveyed into the canyon in the northwest wall of the southeast end of the passage.  The canyon paralleled the upper passage before dropping down.  We got into a small room and stopped for lunch/dinner.  I don't really remember what time it was but we were hungry so we ate.
    The room was really a junction into a crawl way that looks kind of like the Chocolate Way.  We went left (NE, downstream) first.  Unsurprisingly, it went under the upper passage and ended.  We went back to the junction room and wanted to continue survey but the way on was blocked by some ledges.  Unfortunately (at least for Scott and I), Nathan was able to hammer off the ledges and crawl through.  He got into some stuff so we surveyed into it.  This area got back up into the ripply ceiling.  It's sort of labyrinth like with an upper area that is easily humanly passable that has canyons cutting down in several places.  These canyons are not so humanly passable.  Once again, the rock is very weathered and climbing should be done cautiously.  It was pass 8pm at this point so we decided it was a good idea to start out.  Nathan wanted to hammer on a window that looked up into possible passage.  Scott and I talked about how great it would be to never come back to this place again and then Nathan broke through again (never give that kid a hammer).  This passage went 40 or so feet before another obstacle stopped him.  He came back, we cursed him a little, and we packed up for the trip back out.  The leads left are the obstacle that stopped Nathan (he thinks a little hammering will be enough) and at station C20 there is lead heading back downstream but has to be reached by crossing over a canyon with sketching looking rock for supporting yourself.  There is also some air moving around
    When we got back to where we started the survey, station C4, we stopped to pack up some stuff we left there and we could hear stuff falling in the passage we just came out of.  It is some crumbly shit back there.  When we got back to the Chocolate Way, I told Nathan that it wouldn't hurt my feelings if he got someone else to go with him next even though my pants weren't around my knees like they were last time.  I think it was 10:20 when we got back to Crimea River and I was able to take off the PVC suit and shove it into the pack.  I was feeling pretty good to have all the mud weight off of me until I picked up the pack and realized that it weighed probably 30 pounds.  I briefly thought about putting the suit back on but decided against it because it felt so good not wearing it.  That was a stupid decision.  I struggled with that thing the rest of the way out.  Scott had to push me up some of the bigger step ups.  Just a bad choice by me.  We made it out by 1am, I think.  We we got out, Phil yelled down to us from the house and then drove down to talk to us.  As we walked up to our vehicle, we heard an owl hooting from across the Water Sinks.  We thought that somehow Phil was doing the hooting but then we saw his headlights and knew it was probably not him.  We told Phil the whole disappointing story while we changed.  Phil offered us some coffee and food (thank you, Phil) but we were exhausted and just wanted to get back to Rick Lambert's for dinner and sleep.  Phil was nice enough to call Rick and let him know that we were on our way back.  Rick had dinner waiting for us when we arrived (thanks, Rick).  Overall, it was one of the most physically exhausting trips I have been on.  When I got back to my place Sunday afternoon, I emailed Scott and Nathan that I was ready to go back.  So were they.