Sunday, November 06, 2005

[Trip] Maiden Run At Night

This Friday evening, the WVU grotto visited Maiden Run, our own backyard cave. Brian Masney, Rich Finley, Ryan Ellers, John Tudek, myself, and John Cunningham met up and arrived at the parking area just before dark. We geared up and trudged through the woods for a bit, passing the entrance (which on hindsight is very easy to find) at first.

The entrance and first few hundred feet of cave are straight, narrow walking passage. The cave takes a 90 degree left turn and becomes crawling height for a bit. The passage is then interrupted by a 15' dome pit, which was the first sign of water we saw in the cave. The pit is bolted from several points of questionable age and quality, including a frightening hardware-store rope and a rusted chain. Rich rigged a cable ladder for the descent, and it was the perfect length to rig back up the opposite side of the pit to continue forward. Water drips from the ceiling in this dome and appears to flow through a parallel passage at pit-floor level directly underneath the main passage; this lower passage is too low to follow out of the pit however. John ? had never used a cable ladder, but navigated it like a pro.

John Cunningham descends the cable ladder into the first dome pit

At this point John T. headed back out, and the rest of the group went forward, where the upper crawling passage continues. Sections of this passage floor were very hollow dirt flooring, and parts completely open up to reveal the passage below as it eventually becomes a small canyon passage of stooping height. We stopped for a bit to marvel at what a "crappy" passage it was. This passage is interrupted by the second dome pit.

Rich Finley poses with 'guano' of a most remarkable size

The second pit is easily hand-climbable in and out, and is the register room. The ceiling appears much taller than the first, but the room is dry. We stopped to read through the decrepit register and read all the carbide graffiti in this room, dating back to the 50's. A small floor-level passage appears to lead outside the cave, as evidenced by a breeze and debris on the floor, but we did not follow this lead. The register and graffiti show that this cave has had a fair deal of traffic (also indicated by a few scattered beer cans and bottles in the first passages).

Graffiti on the register dome walls

Looking up from the register dome floor, Dave Riggs sits in the upper passage

The upper passage to the right is initially narrow and oddly shaped, but veers back in line with the main passage and becomes a straight, stoop-height, oval phreatic tunnel. This passage continues, eventually as a crawl, for at least several hundred more feet, and reportedly for a long ways, but we did not push it.

Rich Finley develops a new technique for turning around in the tight far passage

On the way out, Rich rigged a slip knot for the cable ladder which we untied once everyone had made it to the bottom of the pit. After climbing back up and out the entrance side, Rich wisely cut and hauled out the dangerous rope. It should be noted that the web etrier on the opposite side was installed in 1995 according to the register, and it probably shouldn't be used as a primary device. We exited the cave and were back to the cars by about 10:45pm, and back in Morgantown by 11:30.

I'd like to do more evening trips like this, though the lack of nearby caves probably makes this and Beaverhole Upper unique for Morgantown cavers.

Brian Masney still grinning from the poo-crawl

All photos ©Brian Masney

No comments: