Permit #: 1803-1
Trip date: 31 March 2018
Project manager: Bill Gee
Trip purpose: Finish anchoring stilling well, reposition rope light
Areas of Cave visited: Downstream Thunder
Trip participants: Bill Gee, Rita Worden, Jack Peters
Entry Time: 10:20am
Exit Time: 1:30pm
The trip report: When we installed the new data logger below Thunder Falls in January 2018, the stilling well had to be left partially anchored. This trip finished the anchors. We also hauled the rope light out and rehung it behind the ladder instead of on a side rail.
Since this was a short trip with experienced cavers, we were able to get by with only three participants. Three turned out to be exactly the number we needed. Any more people would have been just sitting around.
Jack and I arrived at the silo about 9:20am. We drove in light to moderate rain for the first half of the trip. The rain quit before we got to Warsaw. The roads around Montreal were dry except for a few puddles.
Rita was waiting for us at the school house. Jack and I drove up the hill, dropped his trailer, and then he went back to give Rita a ride. The hill was just slippery enough that she did not want to chance it with a borrowed car. I took some photos of the area around the silo. The tree line has been torn out and the fencing is all new.
After we geared up, we decided that the sequence of operations would be to set the anchors for the rope light, then complete the data logger stilling well, then pull out and rehang the rope light. Before going down, I checked the electrical system. There is definitely power at the pole because the meter is lit up. I opened and closed all four of the circuit breakers inside the silo. They are getting a bit corroded and probably should be replaced. Testing the circuits showed that we had no lights in the silo, but the lights and outlet in the basement were working. I plugged in the rope light briefly and verified that it is working.
All of us used cable grabs for this trip. I brought some ropes for just in case, but we did not use them.
I went down the ladder first with my drill. When I got half way down I started drilling holes. I drilled four holes at about 13 foot intervals. The last was just 6 or 8 inches above the lip at the bottom of the shaft. Jack followed me with his drill, starting at the top and continuing to where I started. Rita was last. She put a plastic insert and a stainless steel screw-eye in each of the holes that Jack and I drilled. The work took only 10 minutes or so.
Once in the cave I downloaded the two data loggers at the ladder. Thunder River was running about 6 or 8 inches higher than usual. We hauled tools over to the new stilling well, which is a bit over one hundred feet downstream from Thunder Falls. We checked out the falls – they were running at an impressive rate.
At the stilling well I used a brand new bit to finish drilling the second bottom anchor hole. That is hard rock! It took about ten minutes to add another inch to the depth. Jack set a new wedge anchor in the hole and hammered it home. We loosened the other bottom anchor bolt, got the stilling well onto both bolts and then tightened it down.
The PVC sleeve at the top of the stilling well was cracked from January. I brought a stainless steel hose clamp to use for the top anchor point. We unwrapped the wires, threaded them through the clamp and tightened everything down. Total time was about thirty or forty minutes.
We packed up tools and headed back to the ladder. After some discussion we decided to have lunch in the silo. While climbing the ladder Rita and Jack untied the wires that were holding the rope light in place. I came last and coiled the rope light around my neck as I climbed.
The rope light was covered in what looks like snotites. They are probably strands of calcite that is not yet hard. I got that stuff all over me! We untangled the rope light and stretched it outside the silo.
By this time I was VERY cold and shivering uncontrollably. We paused for lunch, then took on the task of hanging the rope light on the new anchors. We had quite a bit of discussion over exactly how we were going to lower the rope light behind the ladder without having its full weight ever hanging on a single point. In the end we realized there was really no good way to avoid that. About all we could do was keep the stress to a minimum.
Rita and I lowered the rope light behind the ladder. Jack went down with it, making sure it stayed behind the ladder. Once at the bottom he started zip tying the rope light to the new anchors, working his way back up. Due to some missed communication we wound up with about 20 feet of extra light at both top and bottom of the shaft. There are some anchors in the ceiling next to the shaft where the bottom excess can be hung on a later trip. We had intended that all the excess length would be at the bottom.
Everything was done by about 1:00pm. We verified that the rope light worked, then cleaned up and put away tools. We left the silo about 2:15, dropped Rita at her car and then headed home.