Tuesday, April 25, 2006

[trip] VPI Picnic / Newberry Cave

I spent this past weekend in Bland County VA with the VPI Cave Club for their annual Picnic weekend. Their campsite is in a beautiful karst valley, apparently filled with vertical caves. The VPI folks know how to throw an event - there was lots of good food and drink, plenty of great people, and an enormous bonfire roaring all weekend.

I went on a trip led by John Deighan into Newberry Cave. A small party went in before us and rigged the cave, then our party of 5 followed shortly after. The entrance to Newberry is a vertical crevice, at first about a foot wide then opening up a bit towards the bottom. It's about a 60' rappel down the crevice into a small entrance room.

From the entrance, we followed a stair-stepped passage down, then crossed a ledge with a bit of exposure, to a second rappel - this one only about 30'. A cable ladder was rigged here for the ascent back out. Just below this nuisance drop was a beautiful 180' pit, Bill's rappel. We dropped it to the room below, then followed some twisting passage down, eventually taking us to the bottom of triple wells - an amazing 220' perfectly-vertical pit.

From here, we headed back up and followed the "devil's staircase", a series of winding hand climbs that brings you back above the 180' drop without ascending rope. Two spots were a bit hairy, but everyone made it up without incident. We derigged the big drop, then ascended the 30' one - some of us opting to frog it out rather than deal with a cable ladder. After derigging, we took a slightly different path back, which brought us up to within 25' of the entrance slot. We handclimbed/chimneyed up the remainder of the entrance crevice with ascender backup.

We arrived at the surface to sunny weather and had just a 2 minute hike back to the campsite where dinner was just about ready. It was an enjoyable cave trip, a beautiful cave, and an all-around excellent weekend.

The author picnic-ing with VPI's cutest girl

See also photos by Richard Cobb

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