Saturday, July 14, 2007

[trip] Bradshaw Run, Dreen, Just Caves

This weekend, I left Morgantown late on Friday night and arrived at the Oildrum Falls campsite just after midnight. Doug McCarty, Llew, and Justin Williams were exhausted enough from their trip into the historic side of Simmons-Mingo Cave that I didn't wake them. There had been flash thunderstorms throughout the week in Morgantown, and I assume that the Elk River area had some precipitation as well. On Saturday morning, we met up with Doug Bell, Jesse Miller, and John Barth, and headed to Bradshaw Run Cave.

The entrance to Bradshaw Run was taking a good deal of water - much more than the previous time we'd visited the cave. I rigged the rope to a fallen tree outside, and then headed in. The top of the drop was lined with large cobbles and washed-in rocks. I kicked the most obviously-loose ones down, but the entire floor was covered with plenty more - great. We opted to rig the rope to a bolt on the left hand wall, which kept the rope from sweeping loose rocks down the drop. Water was pouring in from the ceiling in many places, and a soaker of a waterfall was flowing down and over the drop.

I rappelled 8 feet down to the ledge and placed a rope pad, then rappelled the rest of the drop - only 20 or so, but with the waterfall pouring down right over my head. Justin came down next, then Llew, until the three of us were all completely soaked and waiting at the bottom. Since this was to be Doug, Jesse, and John's first in-cave rappel, it was decided that we should probably pick something a bit drier for them. The trip was aborted. On the way out, one of the loose rocks dislodged from the top, bounced off the ledge and was sent flying a good distance out from the bottom of the drop - beware of the wide splash zone due to rocks bouncing off this ledge.

We took a quick detour - everyone driving their vehicles while soaking wet and in full vert gear - to check out Falling Spring Cave, which I think is one of the most amazing cave entrances in WV. Though there was no water flowing over the falls, the massive logs jammed into the cave entrance hint that this cave is not the place to be during a serious storm.

Our next stop was Dreen Cave. I rigged the drop immediately on the left-hand passage, which was nice and dry. This drop is an ideal beginner rappel - it's about 35 feet deep, is very easy to get on and off rope, and is a completely free drop with walls within reach if you need them. Everyone bounced the pit once or twice, with Jesse, Doug, and John getting their first in-cave rappels under their belts - they all did a great job.

At this point - around 3:30pm, Doug McCarty had to leave but the rest of us were still itching to get some more caving in. We headed to Just Cave for some more vertical action. Llew and Justin had rappelled Just before, but I had never - they helped me rig it, and I headed down first. The "pit" is a very long, but narrow vertical fissure. Until you reach the bottom, it doesn't bell out any more than 3 feet wide at its widest. We rigged to the side closest to the entrance, which gave us (unfortunately) the shortest rappel - perhaps 40 feet. Llew, Doug, and Jesse rappelled down as well, then Llew and I chimneyed through another vertical fissure to check out the rest of the cave. We went down a few tens of feet through breakdown, where everything was completely covered with mud and silt. A cave stream appeared, rounded a bend, and headed into some low passage, which we didn't bother following. There were some excellent crinoid fossils in the lower limestone, including a few arms.

We headed out, packed up camp, and Llew, Justin and I headed directly for Mama's Kitchen in Elkins for great hot meal. Mama's no longer has cave/caver photos on the wall, but instead has a large WV-themed mural which features at least two caves. We're already planning a return trip back into Bradshaw Run.

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