Saturday, January 27, 2007

[trip] Scott Hollow

On Saturday, Jan 27, 2007, Ben Mirable, Brian Masney, Mary Schmidt, Kyle McMillan, Ryan Ellers, Ashley ??, and Dave Riggs took a tourist trip into Scott Hollow Cave, in Monroe County WV.

Most of us met up on Friday night at beautiful Casa Mirable, near Pipestem Resort State Park. While Ben had plenty of room for everyone, I chose to sleep outside in the freezing cold to escape Kyle's mammoth snoring. In the morning, we caravaned down to Monroe County.

Kyle, Strongman Ben, Dave, Brian, Mary, Ryan, and Ashley outside the entrance house of Scott Hollow Cave.

The entrance to Scott Hollow Cave is located inside a locked house, which is located in the bottom of a giant sinkhole. The owner, Mike Dore, has put a lot of work into the cave since it was discovered in 1984, and also gives paid wild cave tours there. Exploration and surveying are still ongoing, and the cave is currently at almost 30 miles - 3rd longest in WV and 13th longest in the US. A metal culvert with rebar rungs leads about 25' down a windy tunnel into walking stream passage. The limestone dips steeply here, and the passage goes downdip along the Hillsdale Limestone / Maccrady Shale contact, losing over 400' of elevation very quickly.

Within 10 minutes of entering the cave, we somehow managed to become separated from Brian and Mary. Luckily, we managed to cross paths at the Junction Room, where several smaller passages intersect. The group from there continued on until we reached our first destination, Mystic River.

Trunk passage in Scott Hollow's Mystic River. Note the high water mark on the left wall.

Mystic River is a massive trunk passage which appears to be up to 50' wide and up to 75' tall in places, and parallels the strike of the syncline. It appears to be stratigraphically-higher in the Greenbrier (lower Pickaway?), while lower in elevation than the entrance passages (which were in the bottom of the Greenbrier, the blue Sinks Grove and Hillsdale). The water level was in some spots merely inches deep, but for several hundreds of yards we were wading in waist-deep, icy cold water! While the current wasn't terribly strong, the water was deep enough to occlude underwater obstacles like rocks and potholes. The amount of water flowing through there was impressive enough, but to marvel at the amount of water that formed this passage (and hinted at by the high water mark) was mind-blowing! I'm told that this huge passage is itself over 4 miles long, but 1.5 miles are only accessible by sump diving.

We took a left turn at a very large fork and arrived at a beautiful 4' tall double waterfall. As the underground river breaches a layer of chert, it drops abruptly through the limestone; it breaches the chert about 10' upstream as a mid-river sinkhole, with whitewater pouring in from all sides. The sight is quite impressive.

Kyle at the double waterfall.

We continued on to the beginning of a section called Iron City, which consisted of a huge hall floored with breakdown and rubble. Our original plan was to attempt a trip to Kansas, but we'd eaten up too much time on the way. We headed back the way we'd come, wading through the waist-deep water, then climbing up the seemingly-endless breakdown hill as we hiked back updip towards the entrance. The climb back out the access culvert seemed twice as long after 7 hours underground.

It was a pleasant surprise to find warm, autumn-like weather waiting for us on the surface, and we were even treated to a lunar halo. After changing clothes, our filthy group headed to the town of Pickaway for some excellent pizza and dessert at the Pizza Barn - highly recommended if you're in the area!

All photos are ©2007 Brian Masney

Access to Scott Hollow Cave is restricted to experienced cavers, who have been NSS members for over a year, and are at least 18 years old.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am a decendant of the Scott family that Scott Hollow is named after. I find your story & pics very interesting. There is also an entrance on our family farm. My grandfather had it explored some before he passed. It's amazing what can be under your feet & you don't have a clue. Thank you for this article...D. Scott