08/05/06 – the Mighty 3M Passage in UL2 (Lerch)

Submitted by Bob Lerch

August 5, 2006

Area Mapped: 3M Passage (Meandering Muddy Madness) in UL2

Ben Miller, Spike Crews, Bill Gee, and Bob Lerch

Time In: 10:00a       Time Out: 9:00p                  Duration: 11 hours

Since the 3M kept going, we thought that pushing this side passage off of a side passage was a good goal for the trip. After plotting the July data, we could see that we were heading west in the direction of Paradise Passage of all places. 3M and Paradise both skirt along the ridge to the north of Traw Hollow, running parallel to Upper Thunder and Carroll trunk passages, but they are still a long way from each other. As we started into the cave, we were optimistic about the possibility of the going passage in 3M. We arrived muddy and sweating at the lead after about 2 hours of solid caving. After some needed food and water, we got down to surveying for the day. We continued the “main” survey to the west, leaving the going south fork for another day. We decided to stay as a team of 4 because teams of 2 were a pain for the sketcher in this muddy passage – keeping your hands and page clean is tough when you also have to read instruments. So, Ben sketched the floor plan and I drew a couple of cross sections and then helped Bill take photos. After about 4 hours of surveying, the passage continued its muddy meandering ways with no end in sight, and it was still decent sized passage, too.  We took a hot meal break, and then got back to it, reeling off several more shots in going passage. Then, we hit another of many squeezes over a mud bank, but this one was a bit longer and lower (~1.5’ tall and 30’ long) than most of the previous low spots. I was on lead tape, so I wriggled through the squeeze and popped out into a modest sized room (40’ wide and 22’ tall) with breakdown coming down the far wall and covering most of the floor. The passage had suddenly ended in a wall and ceiling of loose rock. The stream meandered off to the right into a grim little passage that did go super low, but nobody was interested in mapping it, so we called done at UL2-90a61. We got a hard-earned 294.8’ of new footage in the books, bringing the total for 3M to over 1600’. And we still have the south lead to finish. In addition, the extension of 3M pushed the UL2 side passage to 7383.0’ (1.4 miles), making it the largest surveyed side passage to date.

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