Saturday, January 31, 2009

[trip] Shovel Eater UpDog Survey

This past weekend was my return to Germany Valley after a 6 month hiatus; while our lead quickly died and we surveyed just under 90 feet, I was treated to a relaxing tour of several "new" parts of Shovel Eater Cave. Brian Masney and I drove from Morgantown on Saturday morning and met up with John Harman at his house, then grabbed a late breakfast - or rather, early lunch - at The Gateway. We stopped by the landowners' farm for permission to head in to Shovel Eater as well as to do some "landowner relations"; Brian presented them with a stack of glossy cave porn: some fantastic SEC photos that really impressed the family, the first that they'd seen of their cave.

After a lazy start, we managed to get underground at somewhere around 12:45. The trip in was uneventful; we stopped to snap a few photos for Brian and then dropped down the Ohio Bypass, which had only a trickle of water. At the HHA junction, we turned right and continued up the main passage until we ducked under a relict-flowstone shelf and rappelled a small pit with crumbly mud walls and some water raining down from the ceiling. From this point, the passages became a series of sinuous, tall, narrow canyon, where we continued to travel upstream and climbed up several of John Harman's bolt climbs to higher and higher levels, reaching the EFN survey, which had stopped at a 20 foot pit in the floor and a bolt traverse around the perimeter...


Dave rappelling the Y-hang above the Ohio Bypass in Shovel Eater Cave. Photo by Brian Masney.

We finally began to survey, and as Brian snapped open a cyalume stick to use as a station light, it exploded, spraying his face and eyes with glow-in-the-dark chemical goo. Thankfully, he was able to stay calm and collected while standing blind, eyes burning at the top of a 20 foot pit; I did my best to flush his eyes out with an entire liter of water, and being the trooper that he is, he was then ready to shoot instruments. It was then that we noticed that this area of the cave has a jaw-dropping assortment of updog on the floors, walls, and ceiling, and it was obvious to us that this should be called the UDS, or "UpDog" Survey. Never before have I seen so much updog in one place!

Our survey shot across and over the pit, to a mud-and-breakdown slope which fed into a doubled-back canyon passage beyond. John had previously placed several bolts, and he rigged a traverse line to safely cross. The passage headed up to a wider canyon spot at mid-level, and up another 15 feet to the original phreatic tube in the ceiling. Sadly, this tube ended within 5 stations, choked with cemented mud and sandstone cobbles in the upstream direction, sealed by flowstone downstream. Unseen holes in the floor dropped rocks and mud balls down to the go-nowhere EFN canyon below. Without fanfare, our lead died, so we packed up and headed out. John derigged the traverse line and the two bolt climbs on the way back to HHA, which should be a big disappointment to all the "twenty footer" hounds.


The "sunnyside up egg"; a formation along the EFN canyon. Photo by Brian Masney.

After grabbing a bite to eat, we set off for some sight-seeing. We continued up the HHA trunk, ducked underneath the WVU bolt climb, and visited the Echo Dome(?) at end of the passage. I hit this beautiful dome with my disto and measured 101.4 feet to the top. We backtracked to see an area called Pristine, where John spied a potential bolt climb that he plans to do ASAP. Eventually, we made our way down to HHH so that Brian could meditate at the foot of the omnipresent "Buddha" in the Acoustic Persistence Chamber.

Eventually, we decided that we'd poked around long enough, and headed out of the cave. Again, the trip was uneventful, and we were on the surface by 1:30AM, with around 12.5 hours underground.

1 comment:

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