Carroll Cave Trip Report – 24 February 2024

Time in = 9:15am Time out = 6:00pm

Participants = Bill Gee
Mike Kovacs
Candace Kovacs
Sarah Peterson
Jack Rufener
Alex Stumpf
Martin Carmichael
Nathan Taylor

The purpose of this trip was to show routes in Upper Thunder River to current and potential trip leaders. Except for Bill Gee, none of the participants had ever been through the breakdown pile to the terminal waterfall.

Several of the group camped overnight Friday. The temperature was near freezing with a completely clear sky and a full moon. Everyone else arrived early Saturday. Alex had never been to Carroll Cave. He (and everyone else) had some trouble fiddling with the padlock on the road gate. Alex arrived on the dot of 9:00am.

I had two miscellaneous tasks to perform, so I went down the shaft first. I made a very quick solo trip to replace the data logger below Thunder Falls, and I set up a cave intrusion detector. The data logger arrived back from the factory with a fresh battery just three days prior to the trip.

When I got back to the ladder, there were still two people to come down. We left the ladder at 9:45. The water level was quite low which made the trip a bit easier. We arrived at the Round Room at 11:00am. A short break, then we continued on.

We stopped at the Second Azure Pool to see the Chocolate Bunny. Candace took a few photographs of it. We carried on to the start of the breakdown pile. There were a few wrong turns, but we did not get seriously lost. It was a good refresher for both Martin and I.

We arrived at the entrance to the breakdown pile at 12:00. Everyone had lunch. We started through the breakdown pile at 12:30. There are four tight spots going through the breakdown pile. The first is the most difficult because of the jagged walls and a rock sticking out in the middle. It helped that the water level was very low. I have been through that tight spot when there was 6 inches of water flowing in it. This trip the water was low enough to not be an issue.

It took everyone a while to wiggle through the first tight spot. The second spot was fairly easy. The third also took a few minutes to get through. At the fourth tight spot Candace went first, then turned around and took photos of everyone as they came through. From there it was an easy climb down to the stream.

Beyond the breakdown pile the cave is fairly low. There is a lot of stoop walking and some stretches of hands and knees crawling. As you go along it is very tempting to try to stay out of the water. There are some nice rooms on the right side. Don’t give in to the temptation! The way on is to stay in the stream.

After a while we came to the Broken Sidewalk. This starts as hand and knees and soon becomes a belly crawl. That does not last long. At the end is a dodgy 7 foot climb up through a hole. That is the last major obstacle on the trip. From there it is another 1500 feet, more or less, to the terminal water fall.

We arrived at the water fall at 1:50. Everyone looked around for a while. There were fish in the pool at the base of the waterfall. The water was flowing, though noticibly down from the last time I was there. Candace set up and took some group photos. We left for the return trip at 2:15.

Getting back through the breakdown pile was still difficult. We took less time because it was now familiar, and because we did not take any side trips looking for a dry route. We were through the breakdown pile at 3:00.

The rest of the return trip was uneventful. We had a few missed turns that we figured out very quickly. A few rest breaks. We were at the Round Room shortly after 4:00. Everyone was getting fairly tired, so we slowed down a bit getting back to the ladder. We arrived at the ladder at 5:20.

Alex had never been in Carroll Cave. He and Jack made a quick trip over to see Thunder Falls while the rest of us went up to the ladder and geared up. I climbed first, then helped everyone get out of the shaft safely. Jack and Alex were the last to climb, just a few minutes behind the rest of the group. Everyone was out of the cave by 6:00pm. The weather outside was clear and 50 degrees, with the sun just going down.

Most of the group went into town for Mexican.

We kept a running count of fish and other critters as we went upstream. From the ladder to the Round Room we counted 35 fish. From the Round Room to the breakdown pile another 20 fish, and from there to the waterfall about 15 more. We saw 5 or 6 salamanders. At the first riffle past the breakdown pile we looked for isopods. We saw 6 or 8 of them, all rather large at 12 to 15mm.

At the ladder we saw the carcass of a rat, two grotto salamanders and three live ring-neck garter snakes.

Trip report by Bill Gee