Trip date: 16 Jan 2010
Project manager: Terry Defraties
Trip purpose: Place rescue cache, check evacuation routes
Areas of Cave visited: Upstream beyond Round Room
Trip participants: Bill Gee, Terry Defraties, Jeff Grigg, Lori Schultz
Entry Time: 9:15am
Exit Time: 8:00pm
The trip report: This trip had four goals, all of which were met. We placed a cache of rescue gear in the Round Room, we downloaded all data loggers, we changed out some dye trace bugs for Ben Miller and we surveyed evacuation routes beyond the breakdown pile in upper Thunder River.
I arrived at the schoolhouse about 6:00pm. After setting up the camper and having dinner, I went up the hill to service the rain gauge data logger. I suspected its battery was low and I did not want to take the time to change it while others were waiting to get into the cave. The data on the logger was downloaded and I replaced the battery. I was right – it read 2.97 volts which is fairly low. It would probably not have lasted more than a few months longer.
The next morning Jeff Grigg arrived about 8:30. Terry and Lori arrived just a few minutes later, running quite a bit faster than I expected. We all loaded up in my truck for the trip up the hill. The hill was very soggy from snow melt. Nothing except 4×4 vehicles were able to make it, and even then it was slipping and sliding all over the place.
We geared up and were all in the cave by 9:30. The first item was to head down Carroll Passage to the Water Barrier so the data logger in Carroll River could be downloaded. We made the trip there and back to the ladder in about 50 minutes.
The next stop was UL2. We changed out a dye trace bug for Ben Miller and downloaded the data logger. From there we went on to the Round Room. We arrived at the Round Room about 11:30am.
At the Round Room we placed a cache of rescue gear. The cache is in a medium size dry bag and is located high up near the ceiling. It is marked with green flagging tape which is visible from the floor of the Round Room. This cache contains mostly “stay-warm” items such as candles, large trash bags etc.
We left the Round Room shortly before noon and arrived at the breakdown pile about 1:00pm. Along the way we made one wrong turn around a breakdown room, and we stopped for a few minutes so Lori could see the Second Azure Pool.
At the breakdown pile we had a sandwich break, then headed on in. We arrived at the terminal waterfall around 3:30. We took some photos and had a candy bar break, then headed back. We did not specifically look for biota, but it was hard to miss some of the fish. The fattest fish I’ve seen were in the stream just up from the exit of the breakdown pile.
On the way back we found two more dye trace bugs which we changed out. One is just outside the Bone Room in the main river flow and the other is a hundred feet up in UL5 which is very close by. I went in to UL5 alone, but could still hear the others talking as I changed the bug.
The last part of the trip we started dragging a bit, but even so we reached the ladder about 7:30. We were all out of the cave by 8:00 and heading down the hill by 8:30.
Evacuation of a litter case from far upper Thunder River will be very difficult. The breakdown pile has 5 choke points in it. The very first one is the most difficult. It requires lying on your side in about 6 inches of water. The passage is only a foot or so wide and has a rock in a very inconvenient place.
Two more of the choke points are vertical transitions from stream level to a slightly higher passage. The vertical distance is only 6 or 8 feet, but the passage is rather tight. Getting a patient package around the corners would require considerable effort.
The bottom line is this – Don’t get injured out beyond the breakdown pile!