03/01/03 – Austin (UR2)

UR2 Trip Report for 3/1/2003

By Dan Austin

Other surveyors
J. Hinesley
Bill Gee

After discussing survey team arrangements for the day, J. Hinesley, Bill

Gee and myself entered the cave at around 9:30 am before the work crews

(ladder installlation). As J. had never been in Carroll before, Bill and I

took him down to Thunder Falls for a short look. After returning to

T-Junction, we grabbed our packs and headed towards UR2, located a short

distance upstream from UL2 (Convention Hall survey). We arrived at the

lead about an hour after entering the cave and began our survey. The

opening is located high above Thunder River up on a large stream meander.

In order to reach the lead, a small 5-foot gap had to be crossed to a

slippery mud slope. I provided a knee to stand on for Bill and J, and we

all ended up falling at least once before everyone was safely across.

Luckily, the floor was only a couple of feet below the gap, so no harm

was done. I later found an easier bypass to this around the corner – a

short climb up a wall and across a ledge.

As we were setting station UR2-2, the other survey team (led by Ben

Miller and Bob Lerch) showed up. We coordinated a time of 5:00 to meet

for a break, then they continued back to UL2 to survey. Bill ran lead

tape, while J. did forsight, and I sketched. It took a little while to

get in the rhythm of surveying, but after a couple of stations we were

moving along at a good pace. I was kept busy skecthing as each shot

seemed to get longer and longer. The beginning of UR2 started out at 10

feet in diameter. It quickly widened to about 20 feet, and in some areas

was up to 30 feet wide. Most of the passage was walking height with a

sand-covered floor. Large sand banks and intermittent clay meanders

eventually gave way to secondary calcite formations. At around UR2-11,

Bill came across a large stalagmite 4 feet tall, which he flagged off

with our tape. A little further on, a large rimstone dam had to be

crossed in the middle of the passage. And then things started changing.

Stalactites became more frequent, as did dripping water. The passage was

still fairly large, about 7 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide. At station

UR2-13 we encountered a small pool with a little stream running into it.

The stream averaged 3-4 inches deep and 1-2 feet wide before it ran from

under a low ledge where it had clearly pooled to about 10 feet wide.

We decided to stop here as it was getting close to our time to meet the

other group. I checked ahead to make sure the passage continued. The

small stream was not navigable, but there appeared to be a hole near the

ceiling that could be entered. After an easy hands and knees crawl

through this hole, I found myself standing in some of the most

beautifully decorated passage I have yet seen in Carroll.

It was obvious that the passage continued, but we needed to meet the

other team for a break, so we ran back out to Thunder River. We waited

for about 30 minutes, but they never showed up. Convinced they had found

something great, we decided to head back in and continue our survey. We

quickly mapped up into the formation area, which also turned out to be in

a collapse zone of sorts. I had fun sketching while Bill and J. ‘Oohed’

and ‘Awed’ at every turn.

Shortly, we heard voices, and the other survey team crawled into our

formation room. They had thought our meeting time was set for 6:00

instead of 5:00, which was why they hadn’t showed. They reported on a

couple hundred feet of survey in mostly large canyons and “alot of

ledges” as Bob described it. They returned to their lead, and we

continued the survey down the passage, which became increasingly more and

more decorated. At every station, Bill would report that it looked like

the passage might be too delicate or tight to continue, but always found

a safe route through with no damage to any of the formations. Thousands

of soda straws covered the ceiling 1 foot over station UR2-19, forcing us

to use extra caution. Pure white flowstone poured into the passage from

the walls like a river. Every couple of feet, a stalagmite jutted from

the breakdown. It was truly remarkable.

Several times dutring the survey I thought that the passage would choke

with formations, as it had done in the “carroll river continuation”

passage near T-Junction. But right as we set station UR2-21, our last one

of the day, I could see it wasn’t going to end. The passage ahead was 20

feet wide and 10 feet high with more pure white flowstone everywhere. At

its end, the passage went in two directions – into an upper level and

lower level, both with pure white flowstone floors. We did not dare tread

onwards with muddy shoes, but these passages could easily be investigated

with aqua-socks and some extra caution. We had followed only one set of

footprints up to this point, and it did not appear as if they continued

beyond the flowstone. It was most certainly virgin passage. J. was in awe

at all the decorations, and suggested we call the area Rio Del Blanco.

Bill and I didn’t object. It sounded like a fine name to us.

The amount of passage we had surveyed, which was about 600 feet, trended

primarily to the North East. So if it does end up continuing, there is a

very good possiblility that it may end up bumping back into Lower Thunder

River.

Several flying bats were seen in the area, as well as thousands of bat

bones and animal (opossum?) claw marks, suggesting a nearby opening to

the surface.

We decided to exit the cave a little early, and I took some photos of UR2

and upper Thunder on the way out. We arrived at the hole at 11:00 pm to

find a ladder had been installed!!! The climb was about 10 times easier

than ascending rope (still tiring, though) and everyone had climbed out

to the surface in less than 15 minutes. Bob and Ben’s teams were still in

the cave by the time we went to bed, so we did not know for sure what

their survey had been like.

Much more survey and fantastic formations await in UR2!

Cave fish seen: 1 (where’d they all go??)