9/2-5/05 – Survey Upstream through the Barrier

Date: 9/2-9/5/2005

Area Mapped: Upper Thunder River

Cavers: Ben Miller, Joe Berg, Amber Spohn, Bob Lerch, Andy Lerch, Bill Gee, and Dan Isbell

Time In: 10:00p, 9/2/05      Time Out: 3:00 pm, 9/5/05             Duration: 65 hours

Four of us (Ben, Joe, Amber, and Bob) were camping for the weekend, and the other three were going to join us on Sunday. The camp team headed in Friday night, and we made good time to our camp near UL3, arriving in just over an hour. Our goal for the weekend was to push main passage into and beyond the Breakdown Barrier. In so doing, we would also pass the Helwig survey, which ends on the downstream side of the Barrier, and extend the Upper Thunder map well beyond the previous mapped end.


We split into two teams since the stream splits at about 300 feet from the Barrier. Joe and Ben mapped the left fork (looking in), and Amber and I mapped the larger right fork.  Amber and I picked-up the survey at U182  in very large passage. We would have to map up and over a large breakdown pile and then map along the right wall, following the stream. This would make for some fairly slow progress, and our hopes of making it to the Barrier were dashed early in the day. We made decent progress but finished several shots short of the Barrier. Joe and Ben had even slower progress. The passage is initially walking, but narrows and becomes very meandering in a few shots.  The walls along the right (looking in) are breakdown throughout this area, with a lot of loose, large breakdown everywhere. After several shots, the passage continues to narrow and the stream splits. To the right, it goes under a massive breakdown pile and heads in the direction of the Barrier, halting further progress. To the left, the passage goes for a few more shots (~30’), ending in a scary room with breakdown walls and ceiling and a suicidal dome climb into large, loose breakdown. The stream goes low along the left wall under a <1’ ledge and a breakdown ceiling; it was too sick to survey.  This area also gets shutdown by the same collapse that created the Barrier. Footage total for both teams was 636.55’.


The day trip team (Andy, Bill, and Dan) arrived at the camp about 11:00a as we were still floundering around. We were finally ready by about 11:30a, and after patiently waiting, the day team folks were ready to get going. The plan of action called for splitting into three teams. Dan, Amber, and Bill would go through the Barrier and start mapping on the other side. Ben and Andy would map the Barrier and tie-in to their survey. Joe and I would finish up the survey on the downstream side of the Barrier. After much grumbling, I reminded Ben that this was a historic survey trip, and besides, he has mapped much worse. Of course, I’d never gone through the Barrier and had no idea of what I was talking about. Sometimes, good leadership calls for a creative approach, such as blatant bullsh$#ing.  Joe and I had been mapping for about 4 hours when Dan and Bill came grunting and groaning through the Barrier. They had mapped several hundred feet on the other side of the Barrier before calling it quits since they had a long trip out and Bill had been on a trip downstream the day before. Amber was going to join Ben and Andy to help them finish mapping the Barrier. The three of them emerged about 2.5 hours later, looking worn out. Joe and I still had some stream passage to map, so we continued on for another hour or so to finish up. The Breakdown Barrier turned out to be about 340’ long. Footage total for the day was 1001.12’. Trip Total was 1637.67’ (0.31 miles).

On a personal note, this was Dan Isbell’s last survey trip. The 15-16 hour trips had taken their toll, and Dan decided it was time to call it quits. He hopes to contribute in the future by learning computer cartography so he can assist with the map. As Project Chair, I want to thank Dan for donating his time and effort to the project. Also, he got to go out on a high note since this trip was his first time through the Barrier.

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