Wednesday, September 06, 2006

[trip] Simmons-Mingo at OTR

On Saturday of the 2006 OTR, Judi Wasilewski, Llew Williams, Brian Masney, Bob Griffith, Mary Davis, Garth Dixon, and myself (Dave Riggs) took a trip into the historic entrance of Simmons-Mingo Cave. Most of us had been to this entrance of the cave less than two months ago but had been stopped by a wet stream crawl. Our intention this time was to bypass the stream crawl by rappelling a ledge that bypasses it.

We met at 11am at the Monongahela Grotto's tent. We very carefully 4-wheeled out of the muddy OTR campsite and caravanned to Mingo Flats. Llew bribed the landowner's mean-looking dog with a granola bar, and he instantly became Llew's best friend. As we were almost completely geared-up, the Cleveland Grotto showed up behind us; they planned on taking a horizontal trip into the PSC passage. Even though there had been very significant rain the last several days, the stream at the parking area was low and sunk into its sediment bed, and the spring at the cave entrance was dry.

Llew and dog

The way to a mean dog's heart is apparently through his stomach. Llew with his new best friend.

Our team descended the entrance climb, aided by the existing handline. We headed down, down, down the mountains of breakdown, taking a quick detour to peer into a really deep pit on the right. Continuing down, down, down the breakdown, we spotted the Cleveland team on the breakdown mountain above us coming down like a line of christmas lights, which was a cool sight. They followed us to the start of the PSC passage, and Llew gave them directions from there. We eventually made it down to The Etrier room.

This is a 12' overhung ledge rigged with an old webbing etrier which leads down to a mid-level room. The mid-level room goes to a small, wet, stream crawl on the left, and a 30' ledge to a lower room on the right. We decided to rig a rope above the etrier, down the drop, around the corner, and down the ledge. This turned out to be a bad idea due to the large number of rub points involved. Next time, we'll either get wet in the stream crawl, or we'll rig the pit to the right just before the etrier drop (which looks like it connects to the later stream passage).

Anyway, everyone descended the two drops, ditched our vert gear, and headed down a passage towards the stream. It's here that Simmons-Mingo Cave really starts. The stream passage moves a lot of water and has carved a giant canyon passage. The floor is filled with potholes that make it look like swiss cheese. We climbed down into the canyon passage and headed upstream since it looked like we'd stay dryer than going downstream. Though the water didn't seem very high, we all got wet before long. After touring the upstream branch and poking leads, we decided to head back.

Bob and Mary in canyon

Bob and Mary in the big canyon passage. The cave stream is about 10' below them.

One-by-one we ascended up the first ledge. Progress was slow as several people were working out kinks in their frog systems. I was the last one up, pulled and stuffed the rope, then realized that my pack was sitting back down at the bottom. Damn. Rather than make everyone wait on me to rappel and ascend back up, I opted to try out the stream crawl instead. As I'd heard, it was definitely a wet crawl, with my chest in the water and butt against the ceiling. It's obvious by the size of the cobbles in this stream that it moves a good bit of water. We'll need to bring spare dry clothes if we take this route next time.

After derigging the rope, the climb back up and out all that breakdown began. This was pretty tiring work while wet, muddy, and carrying rope and vert gear. Brian took some good photos in one of the big rooms on the way out, then he sacrificed one of his flash units to the cave gods. We were back outside after about 6 hours, and the Cleveland Grotto had already left. We packed up and stopped for dinner on the way back to the campsite.

Group photo

Group at the historic entrance to Simmons-Mingo Cave. (L-R) Brian Masney, Dave Riggs, Judi Wasilewski, Bob Griffith, Mary Davis, Llew Williams, Garth Dixon

All photos by Brian Masney

1 comment:

little t said...

Simmons-Mingo... interesting cave. I've done the stream crawl one time, and that was quite enough for me. There is also the section down stream where you get to ascend a waterfall. Brrrrr.... I get chills just thinking about it!!