12/26-30/07 – Lower Thunder River and DL7 (Lerch)

Carroll Cave Survey Trip Report

Submitted by Bob Lerch CCC#140

Dates: December 26-30, 2007

Areas Mapped: Lower Thunder River and DL7

Cavers: Mike Freeman, Dan Lamping, Bob Lerch, Ben Miller, Joe Sikorski

Time In: 11:30p on 12/26    Time Out: 9:00p on 12/30      Duration: 93.5 hours

We knew that this trip was going to be tough. We would stay underground for 4 days, camping at Jerry’s Cairns, and get in 3 full days of surveying. To further add to this challenge, we decided to haul several pieces of 6′ long steel tubing that will be used to construct a climbing pole once it reaches its destination way down Lower Thunder. The poles were strapped to three 6-gallon plastic containers so that our 100-lb. monster would float. Of course, the trip to Jerry’s Cairns has many non-floatable sections, and our energy gave out just before the Forevers. So, the poles were left at the camp, just before the Forevers, and we wearily went on to Jerry’s Cairns.

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Our objectives for the trip were to continue surveys in the main Lower Thunder trunk and the north fork of DL7.  The main trunk D survey was within a few hundred feet of the Lake Room, and our goal was to map into and around the Lake Room. This would mean a tough 2.5-3 hour trip from camp through the deepest, nastiest mud in Carroll to get to the start of the survey. In DL7, the start of the north fork survey was also about 2.5-3 hours from camp. DL7 is a much more physical trip in terms of whole-body work out compared to the main trunk. So, these trips were going to be tough, but in different ways.  However, we did agree to reserve one easy day for surveying side passages near the beginning of DL7.  After some discussion about the best order to do the trips, we decided that the first day would be in the north fork of DL7, day 2 would be DL7 side passages, and day 3 would be the slog to the Lake Room.

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“Day” 1

In my reference to “days” consider that our schedule got flipped nearly 1800 because of our late entry on 12/26. So, we left camp on the first “day” at about 5:00p headed for DL7-70, our tie-in station up the north fork. We had already mapped nearly a mile in DL7 before this trip, so we knew we would easily surpass the one mile mark. Our survey began in large trunk passage (40-60′ wide and 10-20′ tall). We broke into two teams and did the usual leap-frog surveying. I started out sketching, and we reeled off 8 mostly long shots before we took a hot meal break. Meanwhile, Ben and Dan were up ahead also enjoying the large trunk, but with somewhat shorter shots in very meandering passage. After break, we went to look at huge formation that Ben and Dan had surveyed passed. This flowstone, dubbed “Hunchilla”, definitely rivals the Liberty Bell as the biggest formation in the cave.  It nearly chokes off the passage at its widest point. We got back to work, with Joe taking over the sketch. We surveyed through an area in which the stream does a nearly 1800 meander, and eventually tied-in to Ben and Dan’s survey.  Footage totals for the day: Team 1, 802.85 ft.; Team 2, 474.55 ft. ; Total, 1277.4 ft.

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“Day” 2

Everyone was tired after day one, but we still managed to wake up a little earlier (1:00p) than the day before. We needed to gradually work back toward a more normal schedule before we left the cave. Our survey objectives for the day were the first two side passages off of the main DL7 trunk passage. Dan and I headed up to the first side on the right (DL7R1), a low but wide passage at the top of a huge mud slope. We had left a station here over a year ago wondering were this phreatic tube might go, and today we would find out. We spent a nice, leisurely day mapping non-descript 4′ tall X 10′ wide passage with a soft mud floor. After nine shots, we came to a modest sized room about 40′ long and 20′ wide, with a 20′ dome at one end. The passage shut down at this point, and we called it a day. Meanwhile, Mike, Ben, and Joe went to the first side on the left (DL7L1). The entrance to this side is a steep 10′ tall mud bank that could not be climbed without assistance. Mike had to boost Joe and Ben up the slope and into the passage, but he could not get in it himself. So, Joe and Ben mapped what turned out to be a virgin side passage. It also connects to the main passage, noted as DL6 on the historic lineplot of Carroll, and forming a 767′ loop that had only 0.41% error!! Footage totals: Dan and Bob (DL7R1), 231.4 ft.; Joe and Ben, 269.9′; Total, 501.3 ft.

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Day 3

No quotes around day 3 because we woke about noon, which was getting close enough to a normal schedule.  We all felt a bit more energetic today, which was a good thing since we would need all our strength to fight the mud. To my surprise, the trip to the end of the survey went by quickly, and we realized we had less than 200′ to the Lake Room. So, we pushed on to the beginning of the Lake Room, and had some food on the large mud bank at the entrance to the room. Joe, Dan, and Ben would retrieve the raft already in the cave and ride to the opposite side of the room so that we could get a shot across the left-hand (south) wall. Mike and I would tie-in and survey to the Lake Room, and then start shooting the perimeter survey. Eventually, the rafters made their way across the room to the opposite wall, and they realized that there is a large alcove that could only be accessed through a low-air spot that immediately pops into a pit in the floor of the alcove. Joe went for it, going all the way in over his head, and right into the pit without any problem. Somehow, we got him the tape and got the shot. We also noticed several leads along the left wall, one of which is up and to the left of the entrance to the room. With a bolted traverse, we could access this lead which may be a bypass to the sumped passage at the far end of the Lake.

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Next, we had to work along the right-hand wall, heading into the muddiest part of the room. I nearly got stuck in waist deep mud at one point, but fortunately there is a floor ledge that you can climb on to stay out of the mud. We slowly worked our way around the room, coming to a large alcove on the far-right wall, and then to a lead heading off north-northeast. The lead has flowing water running over a huge mud glacier and into the Lake. It resembles a large mouth belching out mud. Dan checked it out, and it goes. This is the same passage that was described by Rick Hines’ sons on a trip in 2006. It is a tributary, though, not a continuation of the main trunk. As my light was dimming and the room filled with fog, I wrapped up my sketch, and began the long trip back to our gear on the opposite side of the Lake Room.  The trip back to camp was rather grueling after 3 plus days of caving. We drank some of Mike’s old liquor (45-year old whiskey and some really old brandy) to ward off the pain in our muscles and celebrate a good trip. The footage total for the day was only 494.6 ft, but we had accomplished a major goal by getting the Lake Room finished. Footage total for the trip: 2273.3 ft. (0.43 miles). At the end of 2007, the total surveyed distance to date was 86,152.2 ft. (16.32 miles), making Carroll the 3rd longest cave in Missouri, and the 39th longest cave in the U. S.

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