4/14/12 – “PED172 Intermediate Cave Exploration”

Permit #:  1204-1A and 1204-1B
Trip Leader name:  Bill Gee

Trip date:  14 April 2012
Project manager:  Bill Gee
Trip purpose:  Education
Areas of Cave visited:  CarrollPassage
Trip participants:  DJ Hall, Craig Hines, Dr. David Ashley, students (see report)
Entry Time:  10:15 am
Exit Time:  7:15 pm
The trip report:  Participants – Bill Gee (trip leader)
Dr. David Ashley
Craig Hines
DJ Hall

Students:
Breit, Brad
Flanagan, David
Hunt-Viehland, Samantha
Jarrett, Nathaniel
Montgomery, Lisa
Ostrander, Alyssa
Smith, Ashley
Swindler, Joshua
Voltmer, Leah

Time in – 10:15 am
Time out – 7:15 pm

Areas visited – Carroll Passage, Angel Pool

Every few years David Ashley runs a class at Missouri Western State University called “PED172 Intermediate Cave Exploration”.  The class activities include a cave trip into a cave that requires more expertise than is required for the “PED171 Beginning Cave Exploring” class which is a prerequisite for the PED172 course.  All students had visited Skaggs Cave during the PED171 class.  Carroll Cave has been on the agenda several times for PED172, and this year we decided to do it again.

During pre-trip class sessions, students had viewed a video on cave surveying, practiced with Suunto Duos and measuring tapes in the stairwell of Agenstein Science Building and had experimented with multiple cameras and remote strobes with Firefly flash units.  Students also had the opportunity to view a variety of cave equipment (helmets, lights, pads, packs, vertical gear, etc.), anticipating they were interested enough in caving to begin accumulating their own stash of gear.

The students had a day in the gym at Missouri Western learning how to use vertical gear.  They were assigned gear including seat harnesses from the school’s collection.

I drove down Friday night, arriving at the schoolhouse a bit before 7:00pm.  The weather was cloudy and cool all the way.  I had just finished setting up when it started to rain. A few hours later four of the students arrived.  It was still raining, so they slept in their vehicles.

I set out a cheap plastic rain gauge next to my camper, and it showed 1.5 inches overnight.  In the morning I walked down to the creek crossing at the bottom of the hill.  It had about 10 inches of water at the deepest point.  The water came to about mid-calf on me, and was not high enough to go over the top of my dairy boots (also known as “wellies”).  The creek would not be a problem for us.

About 8:00 am it started to rain again.  David and the rest of the students arrived shortly after 9:00am.  About 9:15 DJ Hall and Craig Hines drove by.  They went straight up to the silo while everyone else sorted gear and got mostly ready.  Since the hill was slick and muddy from the rain, we used only 4×4 trucks.  That meant David and I carried everyone up the hill in our two trucks.  I don’t know how Craig and DJ made it in a small front-wheel drive sedan.

We finished gearing up and started sending people down the shaft at 10:15.  DJ and Craig went first to help get people off the rope while I stayed at the top to make sure everyone got started safely.  Getting 13 people down the shaft takes a while.  I was the last one down just a few minutes before 11:00.

Once I got down, the first thing I did was go down to the stream to see what it looked like.  I also took the data shuttle to download the data logger.  The water was running about a foot and a half higher than normal, very murky and flowing fast.  Back at the ladder I demonstrated how the loggers are downloaded.

After some other introductory remarks, we divided the students into two teams.  DJ and Dr. Ashley took one team to spend an hour doing photography and another hour doing biology.  The team spent some time examining decomposition sticks and talking about non-destructive methods for assessing biodiversity and abundance of cave biota.  Extech IR thermometers were used to collect surface temperature of roosting bats.  Kestrel Weather Stations were used to collect roost-site meterologic data.

DJ Hall introduced cave photography and instructed students on modifying aperture and shutter speed for use with remote strobes.  The class brought three Nikon Coolpix 995 cameras and used multiple strobes provided by DJ and Bill.  Each student was required to shoot multiple shots of different subjects for critiquing when back to campus.  DJ led the group to the Angel Pool area and choreographed several, long-distance, multiple strobes.  Several hundred photographs were taken but most were later deleted!

Craig and I took the other team and spent two hours practicing cave survey.  We did the cave survey section in the Carroll Passage starting about 300 feet from the ladder.  After demonstrating how shots are taken and recorded in the book, Craig and I split the students into two subteams.  Craig went on down the passage several hundred feet.  Each group of students ran instruments and tape while Craig and I recorded data.

The object of this was to give the students some idea of how a survey really works in a cave.  We covered the very basics of doing the book in about ten minutes, then concentrated on instruments.  Any survey these people get involved with will have them doing instruments, so we wanted to concentrate our limited time on that.

We did 4 to 6 shots, which does not sound like much.  It took a while for everyone to get the hang of reading an instrument.  They all got better with practice.

For the first group of students, we did our survey practice for an hour and then met back at the ladder for lunch.  After lunch we went back and continued the survey practice.  About 2:30 the entire group met back at the ladder and swapped student groups.  Craig and I took our group back down Carroll Passage and repeated the survey section while Dr. Ashley and DJ repeated their photography and biology sections.

We all met back at the ladder about 5:30pm.  I took a very quick trip through the Thunder Falls shortcut to check the water level again.  It had come up almost another foot since we first got into the cave.  My opinion was that it was too high to safely get over to Thunder Falls.  Everyone wanted to see, so we took the whole group through the shortcut to the landing area.  DJ (who was wearing a wetsuit) waded out into the flow.  I took a picture of him up to his hips at a place where the water is normally ankle deep.  Everyone agreed they did not want to chance it even though it meant missing an opportunity to see Thunder River at high water.

A few of the students were up for going down Carroll Passage to the Rimstone Room, but they were not enough.  We all went back to the ladder to gear up and get out of the cave.  I was the first one up so I could help people get off the rope safely.  Climbing takes much less time because several people can climb together.  We were all out of the cave shortly after 7:00 pm.

The weather had cleared up a lot during the day.  It was mid-70’s for temperature and partly sunny – very nice for coming out of the cave!  After packing up the trucks, we all drove back to the schoolhouse to get gear back in the right vehicles.  I was the only one who spent Sunday night camping.  Everyone else drove on back home.

Back home I examined the data from the stream level loggers.  The data shows the stream was running about 2.5 feet when we first got in the cave.  This is about 1.5 feet above normal.  This change in level had happened starting about 1:00 am.  The level actually peaked at 3 feet a couple of hours before we got in the cave, and had fallen about 6 inches.  The additional rain during the morning caused the stream to come up again.  The next time I get data we can see how high it actually went.

The data shows that the cave takes on water VERY rapidly, within hours of a rain event. Anyone going either up or downstream Thunder really needs to pay attention to the weather.

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