Thursday, April 24, 2008

[trip] Hero Hole Survey

This Thursday evening, April 24, 2008, Brian Masney, Abby Hohn, and I headed into the Cheat Canyon to survey Hero Hole. This cave hasn't been visited since it was dug open on New Years Eve 2005/2006, and we expected the mined "sinkhole" entrance to have slumped closed. We arrived at the cave around 7PM with a full cache of digging and surveying gear. Abby headed down to the bank of the Cheat River to study, while Brian immediately jumped in and started hauling rocks out of the entrance. There was a strong, cool breeze blowing out, and there were plenty of loose rocks above the entrance in addition to a great deal of washed-in mud and rock. After roughly an hour, we had cleared the passage out and geared up to head underground.

You have never truly caved until you have caved in the Cheat Canyon. Re-digging into Hero Hole, upsidedown. Photo by Brian Masney.

After climbing down the dug entrance hole, you drag yourself under a shelf across a silted "beach" bellycrawl which "opens up" to a small 4-foot-high room. The cave stream seemed lower than I remember it, and looking downstream to where the stream follows an impassibly-small conduit, we saw Hero Hole's namesake, Hero Man, battered and beaten by the harsh cave environment, stripped practically naked and lying in the stream. Not wanting to wind up with a similar fate, Brian and I wasted no time in heading all the way upstream, so that we could survey from the back out. The main cave passage ends where the cave stream emerges from a channel which is too tight to follow; the ceiling height is no more than 3 feet, and the width certainly less than that. Given the cramped, wet, conditions, and the fact that we were doing a two-man survey, it was a slow operation. The canyon passage meanders a bit, and protrusions and shelves composed of patented Druid CrapRock™ poke out here and jab there.

By the time we were at the halfway point, Brian suddenly became extremely cold... his survey station was directly under a tiny conduit at ceiling level, no more than 6 or 8 inches wide, where the chilling wind blasts out. If there is any hope for Hero Hole, it is by following the air up into this "lead". Beyond this air duct was a truly miserable stream crawl, where the dipping ceiling forces your head progressively lower and lower. Luckily, in such a short cave, the halfway point means that you're almost finished! Before long, we were on the surface, soaked, slimed, and chilled from the cave's wind. We were underground for less than two hours, and managed to squeeze 100.5 feet out of Hero Hole! By midnight, we were on our way back out of the Canyon, satisfied with another great day of trying to piece together the Druid Cave System puzzle.

Hero Hole plan-view lineplot, with a surprising 100.5 feet of survey.

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