Sunday, August 19, 2007

[trip] Depths Of Bradshaw Run

This Sunday, I met up with Llew and Justin Williams, and Bob Griffith for a tourist trip into Bradshaw Run Cave, on the Elk River, Randolph County, WV. I camped solo at Oildrum Falls after surveying in Tucker County the previous day. Llew and Justin arrived around 10am and rolled me out of my hammock. I brewed some coffee and made breakfast, gathered up my wet, muddy cave gear (I'd set it out to dry, but it was hopeless), and Bob Griffith showed up. We drove to the cave, geared up, and were at the entrance by around noon.

Luckily the cave entrance was much less wet than it had been on our previous visit. I rigged the 35 foot entrance drop and rappelled down, the maiden in-cave drop on my new bobbin descender, which did a pretty good job.

Once everyone was down, we followed the main passage to big, walking, phreatic tube passage. I took a quick jog down the side passage on the right, which I believe curves back underneath the main passage. At the fault room, we sung harmonies with ourselves, in what must be one of the best echo chambers of any cave. We finally climbed down to the top of the 50 foot pit which leads to the lower levels. Bob took a frightening 7 foot fall climbing down, but bounced right back up without injury.

I rigged to a giant boulder and rappelled over the undercut, muddy lip to a free drop and down to the middle level. After everyone rappelled down, we discovered that this muddy middle level was completely plugged. Using my cave pack for a rope pad, Llew, Justin, and I rappelled down the remaining 15 feet to the bottom level. Bob stayed up at the middle level while we checked out what we expected to be a short passage leading immediately to the sump.

This lowest level is extremely, extremely muddy! Apparently, during high floods, the sump backs up and floodwater deposits large amounts of silt and mud here. We headed on for a few hundred feet, climbed down two very large mud dunes and into HUGE 50 foot tall muddy trunk passage at the very lowest level of the cave. There were no footprints down here, making us wonder just how often this level floods. We went on for a good way, and spent probably 30 - 40 minutes heading on in the direction of the sump, but finally decided that we'd been gone much longer than we'd expected and headed back. After looking at the cave map at home, I see that we were only 200 feet from the terminal sump.

Cold and slimed with mud, everyone was anxious to climb back up to the upper level. Everyone had a difficult time getting over the muddy, severely undercut lip at the top. In hindsight, we should have tossed a pigtail over the lip to use as a foot hold. I was negligent in not climbing up first, but everyone made it up and out without serious issue, though it took us all quite a while.

The trip out was uneventful and quick. The entrance drop seemed to have a bit more water than on the way in, but that could have simply been because we spent more time in it while climbing than ascending. I ascended out last and started de-rigging the rope, only to realize that I'd forgotten my cave pack down at the bottom! Arrgh!! I quickly re-rigged the rope, without rope pads (for shame!), and bounced the pit to retrieve it. We finally made it to the surface just as a bit of drizzling rain was falling, after 6 full hours underground. We packed up and headed to Mama's Kitchen in Elkins for dinner, after an enjoyable trip in Bradshaw Run.

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