Stream Flow Project Trip Report

Date of trip – 25 January 2020

Participants – Bill Gee (trip leader)
Seth Colston
Tyler Skaggs
Kristen Godfrey (trip leader)
Martin Carmichael
Ginny Friedrich
Rebecca Carpenter
Micah Bogart
George Tengel

Time in – 9:30am
Time out – 3:30pm

Areas visited – Carroll Passage, UL2, Thunder Falls

This trip was the annual data logger collection trip. The goal was to download data from every data logger.

The trip was originally scheduled for January 11. Due to bad weather (snow-packed and icy roads), it was delayed one week to January 18, and then for the same reason to January 25. People were joining and dropping out up to the day before the trip. This was very much like last year when the service trip was delayed twice due to weather.

Seth Colston and Kristen Godfrey drove down Friday night and camped at the silo. I picked up Ginny Friedrich early Saturday morning. We arrived at the silo about 8:15. Hot on our heels were Rebecca, George and Micah. They arrived at the gate just as Ginny was going to close it behind us.

The gravel trail up to the silo has some serious erosion from rainstorms a week or ten days earlier. Somehow Seth made it to the silo with his Honda, but everyone else with a car parked at the end of the gravel. The field was still soggy.

My first task was to change the battery in the rain gauge logger on the silo. That task takes about 15 minutes. With that done everyone started gearing up. It took a bit to make sure all the seat harnesses were set up, and to go through a training session on the cable sleeves.

Seth and Kristen went down the shaft first so they could help people get off at the bottom. Micah and Rebecca tried to climb down with cable sleeves. Rebecca managed to make it work, but had a very hard time. Micah did not get more than 20 feet down before getting totally frustrated. He climbed back up and I switched him to a figure eight for rappel. That worked MUCH better for him. Everyone else use a rappel device of some kind.

We were all in the cave by 10:30, which was a half hour sooner than I expected. I demonstrated downloading the data loggers using the barometric pressure logger at the ladder. Seth and I went down to the river where Seth downloaded the logger in Thunder River.

We left the ladder to head down Carroll Passage a few minutes before 11:00. It quickly became apparent that Rebecca and Micah had inadequate footwear. They had forgotten to grab their bag of boots when they left, so they were caving in sneakers. We had gone only a few hundred feet when they decided to stop and wait for the rest of us to return.

At the Rimstone Room Martin did the data logger download. We turned around and headed back, picking up the others where they were waiting. After getting back to the ladder we all had lunch.

After lunch there was discussion about how Rebecca and Micah would proceed. Their shoes were not going to work for the trip upstream in Thunder River. Eventually we decided to go to Thunder Falls before the upstream trip. We usually save Thunder Falls for last.

Everyone made it over to Thunder Falls without incident. The river was flowing about 10 inches higher than usual, so Thunder Falls was thundering very nicely. I downloaded the data logger while everyone else took in the sights.

Back at the ladder George, Micah and Rebecca decided to exit the cave. Tyler stayed around to help them get on and off the cable ascenders safely. The other five of us left for UL2.

With the river running higher than usual it was a wet trip. I got wet to above my waist in several holes, where usually it is hip-deep in only two places. The current was a bit stronger than normal but did not pose a problem. The showerhead formations had a lot of water flowing from them, and the ceiling waterfall at UL1 was running in a steady stream.

We arrived at the data logger in UL2 about 2:00. Ginny did the download, then we immediately turned around and went back. We arrived back at the ladder about 3:00. Gearing up and climbing went fast, and we were all out of the cave by 3:30.

The other four had already left, which we expected. We changed clothes, locked up the cave and headed into Camdenton for dinner at El Caporal.

Analysis of the data shows that a major flood happened just 2 weeks before our trip. Cancelling on the 11th was the right thing to do. The data shows a flood peak at the ladder of just over 13 feet early morning of Sunday January 12 and another smaller flood pulse of about 3 feet on Saturday January 18. For comparison normal water level at this logger is about 1.0 or 1.1 feet.

The data from the logger downstream of Thunder Falls shows peak flood just over 24 feet on the 12th and 8.5 feet on the 18th.

If we had tried to do the trip on either previous Saturday, we would have been unable to get to three of the data loggers due to high water levels.