Friday, August 31, 2007

[trip] Bobcat Blowhole Push

Friday morning of OTR, Aaron Bird, Bob Kirk, and I - Dave Riggs - headed South down the stomach-turning US219 to Lewisburg, to push the remaining leads in Bobcat Blowhole, one of several significant caves in the Raders Valley area. Aaron and Bob gave me a quick tour of Raders Valley, showing me the entrance to Zicafoose Blowhole and several other interesting geologic features.

We entered Bobcat Blowhole around noon, squeezing into and down the dug entrance slot, then made a right-hand turn to intersect a stream passage - which was luckily dry on this day. This stream passage is occasionally of stooping height, but is mainly belly crawl for 1200 grueling feet.

At the end of the stream crawl, the cave suddenly opens up into a very large fault chamber. The ceiling follows the fault, with slickenslides and shattered rock everywhere. We rappelled down a rigged 25 foot drop, climbed up a small hillside of limestone fragments, then crossed a traverse line to another rappel of about 15 feet. We continued down more fractured rock to a lower level stream passage, where our goal was.

Aaron and Bob put on wetsuits, but I did not bring mine. Luckily, the water was so low that I didn't need it at all. We climbed down to the stream and headed in the downstream direction, crawling on low sand banks. Aaron investigated a small infeeder on the left, which was too tight after 75 feet or so. We reached a huge mountain of breakdown which blocks the downstream passage - Bob and Aaron poked around at the lower levels, while I climbed up mud banks at least 40 feet high looking for a way through. I was able to squeeze well into the breakdown and was sure I'd found the way forward... until I peered through a crack and saw Bob and Aaron peering back; I'd been turned around completely in the breakdown. Unable to find a way through the terminal breakdown, we headed back upstream.

We noted a high void on the left as we traveled upstream, located about 10 feet from the floor. I climbed up the mud bank and dug at it, trying my hardest to squeeze into it. Bob and Aaron pushed on my feet, I removed my helmet, and managed to snake my way up into it with a bit of effort. I explored a mud-bank floored chamber paralleling the stream passage, poked around up into some sketchy breakdown, and determined that the chamber didn't go. We headed back. While Aaron and Bob changed out of their dry wetsuits, I followed the stream passage upstream, climbed up and crawled through a passage to check out Columbia Canyon, and impressive canyon filled with large breakdown blocks.

We climbed up the mountain of breakdown, ascended the two drops, and started out the main stream crawl. Aaron and I stopped to pick up some former camp supplies which had been left in the passage, but they were too cumbersome to haul out without a proper bag for them. After what seemed like an endless crawl, we emerged on the surface at around 5pm. We made a quick stop to check out Deel's Hole, a very impressive, large collapse doline and cave, then headed back to OTR after an enjoyable trip.

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