Trip Report for 2/1/2003

(UL3 Survey photos in Photo Gallery)

By Ben Miller

Other surveyors
Dan Austin
Jessie Bebb

We entered the cave around 1:00 PM.  Bob, Andy, Roger, Dan, Jessie and myself headed upstream from the Backdoor Entrance towards the other two crews near UL1.  We stopped briefly to check out the entrance to the passage that had eluded us before and then after confirming an out time with the transit team continued on to the Round Room.  We reached the beginning of UL3 and after leaving our heavier gear briefly checked upstream in the main passage for any possible passages that might connect into the maze we were going to be surveying.  We passed UL4, which was a good-sized walking passage nearer to stream level, and we found what we believe to be the balcony that we had found on the previous trip. Alas it seems as though our big river passage was indeed Thunder River.  We went a little further upstream to look for any other possibilities before stopping at an overlook into an enormous room, which we believe was possibly the Bone Room.

We headed back to the start of UL3 and continued into the passage to the start of our leads.  I gave Bob, Roger, and Andy their tie-in stations and they headed to the start of their survey.   Dan, Jessie, and I started our survey day with some mop-up in an area previously surveyed on the last trip.  We surveyed a small loop from UL3-38, which also had a few tiny crawling leads off of it.  One of these sides surveyed was a squeezy passage that went for 5 or so shots before ending in a low room.  Dan also pushed through some quite tight passage so that we could get a shot into it, this passage we believe may eventually connect to a paralleling hands-knees crawl earlier in the UL3 survey.  Jessie also found a tight lead that continues as well. The loop and the sides gave us just over 200 feet of survey.  After the loop we decided to head down to the lower levels and continue the survey.  Dan started down to the area to start setting up some camera equipment.  I went and checked with Bob’s team to let them know where we were heading as well as to know which area they would be surveying in next.

After meeting with the other team Jessie and I headed further into the UL3 survey eventually climbing down “Messy Pit”, named for the unstable material around the top of the pit, to the lower levels and the start of our next survey.  We started where we had left off at the previous trip along the main UL3 survey.  After the squeezy passage earlier on the pleasant walking sized passage was a very nice change.  The passage we surveyed was generally a flat ceiling stream passage with a cherty gravel floor usually 8-12 feet high, trending north.  Mud was actually somewhat uncommon with the exception of a few banks every few hundred feet.  These occasional mud banks however would usually be steep and rise fairly close to the ceiling before opening back into stream trunk passage.  The banks however were never more than a brief climb over.  We reached one main intersection a few hundred feet in.  At this area we actually found it somewhat hard to figure out which passage was now the main passage. The stream became much narrower and actually dropped into a small canyon in the floor.  It then went around a corner and very tight into the wall.  There was two other passages, which were more sizable, the left led to the area near the balcony and right led to large trunk passage.  We decided to do a shot to the left/west, for orientation, and continue the main survey to the right.  While doing the shot a canyon off the left was found and entered a small distance, the passage opened up to walking size and was completely virgin. About this point we decided to find the other group and take a break.  As we were heading back we ran into the other team coming to look for us to take a break!  We found a good area to stop, fired up the stove, and took about a 30-45 minute break with hot drinks.   We talked about what we had all found and again made sure we knew where each other would be surveying.  After the break everyone was refreshed and so we headed back to the survey.

To the right/east the character of the passage changed from before.  Mud floors were the predominant fill and large steep/near vertical mud banks were frequently encountered.  The passage started out as stoop walking but the floor then dropped away and left us in large passage 18-20 feet tall on average.  At this point as well the passage continued to head north.  We did intersect on small stream fill area where a small canyon on the left entered and then quickly went under a ledge to the right.  Just when the passage seemed to be at it’s largest an 18-foot tall mud bank nearly cut off the passage.  This had to be climbed up and then passage changed character once again.  We were now in much smaller passage, still walking but never over 8-10 feet high.  The passage was also narrower than earlier.  One small dome with calcified sand was noted to the left.  Also as we were surveying Jessie came back talking about a piece of flagging that was hanging out of the ceiling.  Dan and I thought she was crazy since everything we were in had only seen one set of footprints.  But sure enough as we walked around the corner there was a big piece of yellow flagging hanging out of a hole in the ceiling.  And it was the same kind we had!  Then we remembered how Bob and Roger had hung a piece of flagging down one of the pits earlier in the UL3 survey.  Suddenly everything snapped into place and we realized we were directly underneath what we had surveyed many trips ago.  We started seeing other holes that we had seen from above months ago.  We started wondering how could our passage keep going if we were getting so close to the entrance to UL3.  We would either run into a mud bank or go under Thunder River, which we knew was not an option.  Then the next shots suddenly started heading due west.  The passage was getting somewhat smaller but was widening out.  After a few more shots everyone was feeling the length of the trip so we decided that we should probably stop and start heading out, plus our out time was stating to approach.  We looked ahead just a bit to see if the passage kept going and all of a sudden started seeing more footprints!  This didn’t make any sense for how far we were in.  Then we turned a corner and popped out of the entrance to what we had called UL4.  We were just a few hundred feet upstream from the entrance to UL3 and we had just done a big loop.  We left the survey, with just over 900 feet total surveyed for the day, very close to the entrance to the old UL4.  Dan who had his pack and all his gear went to the entrance of UL3 to wait for us.  Jessie and I had unfortunately left some gear way back where we had taken our hot drink break.  So we headed out the long way stopping to see the other group.  We eventually started heading back downstream Thunder River going to the entrance and exiting to a surprisingly nice night. We all had exited the cave by 4:30 am Sunday.  WOW! Once again Carroll completely blows all of our minds.

Total hours in cave: 15 ½

Total survey: 900+ ft

Cave fish seen: 14