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December 5th, 2009

Saturday December 5, 2009 Page County Cave Survey Trip Report

Nathan Farrar

Bill Murray and I met in the Crozet parking lot at 7:30am, and waited for Scott Wahlquist to
arrive. It was raining lightly outside, but the forecast said we’d be getting snow soon. It was almost 8, so
I decided to call Scott, because he’s not ever one to just not show up. I called Scott, and a certain “Josh”
picked up… I had called Josh down in San Antonio “in the middle of the night”, as he put it (there’s only
a one hour time difference…”). We talked a little and then he “went back to bed where he was before”. I
then found Scott’s house number (since he still doesn’t have a cell phone like the rest of the modern
world), and he answered saying that his alarm hadn’t gone off, but since it was only going to be the
three of us on this trip, it wasn’t a big deal at all that we were running late. We laughed it off, and
headed over to pick him up.

From Scott’s, we drove over the Blue Ridge through Shenandoah National Park, and boy was it
snowing! The roads were getting nasty, but Bill drove on like a real man! We got to the cave property
just before 10, got dressed under a tree, where it was only wet and not covered in snow. With it being
as cold as it was, we got dressed rather quickly and headed to the cave. We made great time going all
150 feet to the “back of the cave” where we had to set a bolt for the drop.

Scott climbed down with his drill and bag of bits and pieces, set two bolts, clipped on the cable
ladder and headed on down… and couldn’t stop laughing when he reached the bottom - there was
around 20 feet of canyon before it got too tight again. Scott tried going into the squeeze twice, once
headfirst and the other feetfirst, but it was definitely too tight for us. So, we did a -90 degree drop of 19
feet and surveyed 22ft to the furthest into the canyon Scott could do [interestingly, this shot, C1-C2,
along the floor, lines up with station B5, which was also on the floor – this must represent the original
floor before the entrance collapse]. As we did that, Bill noticed a sloping, slippery ledge that led up the
side of the canyon. It was difficult, and took all my chimneying experience to get up the canyon making
ample use of the ledge, but I finally got up to another mud/rock clump stuck between the two walls. It
looked like we could keep going from there, with a traverse along the wall and a handline up to the
clump I had reached.

I body-rappelled Scott as he climbed up to where I was with the drill to set another bolt for a
handline. Using the bolt he set, I rappelled Scott as he headed out along the canyon along a ledge to set
another bolt for a traverse line [Remember that this is all happening in Page County, Virginia]. It was a
good thing we had brought rope and multiple pieces of webbing! After setting this bolt, Scott realized he
hadn’t brought anymore, so we’d have to leave the rest of the cave for the next trip when we’d have
more bolts to continue the traverse line. As Bill and Scott surveyed from the station we left in November
at the top of the pitch, I headed out to the end of the traverse, and decided that I could keep going
across the top of the canyon if I was cautious. I went another 20ft to where it looked like the canyon
turned, but in fact, it was the end of the cave, no matter that the canyon opened back up to 4 ft wide.
We didn’t dropped down to the bottom at the end of the canyon (20 feet down), but from what I saw, it

looked like there was little chance that there was anything leading off from the bottom. We took a final
shot as far as I could go along the ledge, and finished the Cooley’s Cave survey!

It was still snowing when we got out, so we didn’t do any survey overland or the other two short
caves nearby. We met the neighbor as he was plowing his driveway where we had parked. He said that
he had seen the bat sticker and hadn’t worried about the unknown car. I told him we’d be back next
month, and he said “oh anytime!”.

We did the usual “Uncle Buck’s” meal and headed back home through the snow. VDOT had
done a good job with the roads in Luray, although the Park roads could have been nicer… Once over the
mountains, the temperature had increased 7 degrees and there was “little to no accumulation” – so safe
driving from there on home!

Next month we’ll be headed back to the Cooley’s property to survey overland between the karst
features, and survey those two short caves (Jeff’s crawl and the too dark cave). We’ll also have another
cave lined up after that, because it shouldn’t take long to finish up the Cooley’s property.

Final Cooley’s data:

389.3 feet long (132.6 feet of survey excluded)

63 feet below datum at C2, although if we dropped below C5, it would be deeper.