Trip report by Mike Kovacs

Trip date: 2023-12-30

Trip purpose: Recreational/Photography

Trip participants: Martin Carmichael
Sean Douglas
Nevin Dubinski
Tiffany Stoots
Mike Kovacs
Sean Zimmerman

Entry Time: 10:45am, Exit Time: 6:45pm

How far: The entire group landed at the bottom of the Backdoor Entrance at approximately 10:45am. We acclimated and removed our descending gear and embarked on the journey to the second Azure Pool in the upper Thunder River area of Carroll Cave. We progressed through the main trunk passage towards our end-goal of reaching and documenting the Second Azure Pool a.k.a “The Chocolate Bunny”.

We trekked to and through the Flat Rock Falls area and pushed onto the Round Room where we stopped and had lunch. From there the group pressed on to and through the Bone Room to finally reach the Second Azure Pool.

From that point and since we had made good time reaching our primary goal, Martin Carmichael suggested we press on to the Breakdown Room. This was meant not to break permit protocol however Kevin Dubinski is majoring in Documentary Filmography etc. so the team felt it to be appropriate to press on to the Breakdown Room for the purposes of documentation within this photography project.

As a reward trip, Martin Carmichael desired to take the group (2 of which have never visited Carroll Cave) to the Thunder Falls area. We took the traditional route through Thunder River towards Thunder Falls (Lower Thunder River).

The entire group was above ground by 6:45 pm approximately.

Injuries: No serious injuries to report, just minor dings and mis-steps etc.

Trash: There was no trash or observed on this trip.

Biology: Cave Fish tally = 47 (the last count that I was aware of)
Grotto Salamanders tally = 2 we only counted one on the way in. However since we trekked through passage on our exit (that wasn’t the same path upon our entry) I counted 1 more. So 2 is my count. The first one was observed in the UL1 section and the 2nd was observed in the UL2 area respectively.
1 five inch snake at the bottom of the ladder (Backdoor Entrance)

The trip report: The initial meeting time was 9:30 am sharp

I arrived at Carroll Cave around 8:50 am on Dec. 30th, 2023. Martin Carmichael was already on sight so we shot the breeze, talked about Swago packs and cleats and the two members of the original team that were initially signed up for this trip.

Around 9:05 am Martin Carmichael expressed concern that if at least two more people didn’t arrive then we would have to abandon the trip. At approximately 9:15 Tiffany Stoots, Sean Douglas, Sean Zimmerman & Nevin Dubinski arrived.

Everyone talked a bit, introduced themselves to one another and suited up. After everyone was suited up the team made their way to the silo where Martin Carmichael went over the standard do’s & dont’s as well as a technical course on how to operate and trouble-shoot the cable ascenders for the exit etc.

Martin Carmichael elected me to go in first etc. to make sure that the team dropped in properly to Carroll. Apparently I’m experienced enough for that! Whoop!

I rappelled the Backdoor Entrance on this trip with a Petzl Simple (Bobbin) and a FreinoZ (friction spur style carabiner). Martin’s rope is nice and clean! It was a nice rappel!

After I dropped in I yelled “Off-Rope”- then nothing. After about 7 minutes I wondered if the team heard me or maybe thought I was still on the rope. I looked up the entrance and could hear and see movement but I didn’t know exactly what was happening. Why isn’t anyone else coming?- I asked myself.

As it turns out, Tiffany Stoots (an experienced rock Climber) had an issue with her descending device. She was the second one to drop in using a loaned rescue figure 8 ring.

From this point (and since I had been underground for awhile) I decided to photograph everyone’s entry out of the Backdoor Entrance. From that point we embarked on our journey to the Second Azure Pool in the Upper Thunder River area.

I was a bit under-the-weather (as they say) but capable nonetheless.

We traveled and discussed landmarks like the Shower Head(s) as we headed west.

When we reached the Round Room I inquired about the Bone Room with Martin Carmichael and we ultimately took a photo of the Carroll Cave reference map on my smart phone so we could zoom in to see which came first, the Azure Pool or the Bone room. We got it figured out!


In the Round Room the team ate lunch (oddly enough, around 12:00pm) and then we continued our journey to the Second Azure Pool.

On the exit we made our way back towards the ladder. Martin Carmichael asked the group if we were good to go or needed to head towards the ladder. The group felt confident to keep going so we embarked on a mission to Convention Hall so Nevin Dubinski could get more content for his documentary effort and specifically to document some cave pearls in the upper area of the Convention Hall room.

I elected to not make the climb up to that area of Convention Hall as I have been there multiple times. Martin Carmichael understood this and the group continued.

I stayed at the bottom of Convention Hall and pondered the small box-work piece that someone placed in a nook and contemplated its origin. After that I RESTED AS I WAS UNDER THE WEATHER A BIT. I then decided to inspect some of the entry/exit passages that exist in the Conference Hall room. I had time, so I picked up rocks from the side passages, washed them off for further inspection then returned them where I found them. I still had time, so I got out my smart phone and used an app called CavernSeer created by Ken Grush’s son Sam to see how it functions in large rooms. It’s a LiDAR effort! Just checking it out.

When the team descended from the upper level of Convention Hall we made our way back towards the ladder (Backdoor Entrance).

As a reward and a bite of candy Martin Carmichael led us to Thunder Falls to show the first-timers. Martin Carmichael stayed at the top. I lead Tiffany Stoots and myself to the bottom part of the Falls via the ladder (where one of the data logger stations are * for reference) then the other team members followed.

We discussed the dangers and pitfalls of this area, took some fun pictures and exited this area.

Martin lead the group towards the ladder (Backdoor Entrance) via the river route and I and Sean took one of the “Shortcut Passages” towards the ladder (Backdoor Entrance). Not really a shortcut but it keeps your feet dry – if they ever were!

At any rate we all met up at the ladder and geared up with our ascension gear respectively. Martin Carmichael asked me to be the last to go up so he could go up first to ensure safe exit for the team. My role was to ensure proper functionality and confidence in everyones gear wheather it was a personal ascending gear like a frog system with a Petzl Croll or the cable ascenders provided by the MCKC.

An Aside:

Upon arrival (Descending) we observed a baby snake. On exit we collected the baby snake and he was released top side.

Everyone went up and out!

Mike Kovacs