Joined: Jun 17, 2004
|ZM Survey Trip Report
Memorial Day Cave
April 14, 2007, by Dwight Livingston
Chris Woodley: book
Dwight Livingston: sketch
Rick Royer: point
Kevin Flanagan: foresights
Friday evening the trip to camp went smoothly, made easier for me with just my normal cave pack to haul. We made camp in four hours, arriving around 11 pm. Plans for the survey teams were still coming together. Clearly Pete was heading west to reap the benefits of much work bolting traverses and rigging pits. I felt a little curious to go there and see all the progress and help push east, to cover more off-the-map white paper.
Last month I helped survey some canyon passage below camp and, while the twisting canyon was fascinating and made for a great time, this month I wanted to do more than hand Ralph yet another level for his map. Pete’s team, though, clearly had enough people, and Rick had a long list of leads that needed work. A couple of pits, never dropped, lay only a few yards from camp, and a maze even closer needed survey. The Pinnacle Room, just a short walk away, had a lead at its low end marked "3 x 4" on the map, and then there was a pit at the start of the Pearl Harbor Passage, one that Bob Zimmerman almost dropped by riding a rock down instead of a rope. The Lobster Passage, coming down the map from way up northeast, looked like it might connect to that pit. The possible connection made that lead the most interesting of Rick’s mixed bag, so after our team of early risers ate breakfast, we packed our rope and bolting gear and headed toward the Pinnacle Room.
First on our list was the "3 x 4" lead. It had been marked when the Pinnacle Room was first discovered and hadn’t been looked at since. One good thing, the lead sat at the edge of mapped cave. The bad thing was, it sat on the northwest boundary. This boundary to MDC seems to be a real barrier. Most leads to the south and east go and go, but things to the north and west always shut right down. Streams that cross Columbia Canyon flow from south to north, only to drain into tiny cracks and disappear. The Pearl Harbor Passage hits the boundary and splits with a sudden down-turn of the strata, which plunges steeply and shuts down the passage. The Gunsight Room has leads to the north, all of them muddy and shrinking until they sink below still, clear water.
This "3 x 4" lead — I use quotes because, though I am sure the lead is 3 by 4 feet in places, one can’t say it’s that big everywhere. It was also labeled a "sewer," and that part was accurate. The stiff mud floor had a wet coating, and a couple of inches of water covered the first ten feet of low crawl. This was just what I pictured for pushing northwest in MDC. Farther in, the tube opened up enough to stand up out of the mud. It turned north, then west.
At Stations 6 and 8, leads opened overhead, steep slots that slanted back toward the way we came, but too steep to climb. We sank calf deep into mud, mud that somehow managed to repose on a slope but was too soft to hold us up. Past Station 9, the ceiling lowered and we crawled again. The survey shots got shorter, and the sketches took a just few seconds to complete. Chris had a book and drew the cross sections, so I did a lot of napping in this small stuff.
At Station 11, the passage choked down to less than a couple of feet square. In a flash of brilliance, we decided to ditch our vertical gear. Rick had left the rope back in the Pinnacle Room, so there was not much point in carrying it. I dumped the bolting kit as well. The next three shots came slow. Kevin was dragging the most incredibly large pack, something twice the size of my GGG Cheve. Rick and he, shooting instruments up front, had to do some digging to get through, and the shots were hard to hit first try. Fortunately the clay floor was comfortable and good for naps.
I was getting cold and wished Rick would kill this thing, so we could go do something else.
At Station 15, we hit what seemed like a room, at least compared to what we’d been in. It had passage going left and right, with enough space to walk around, look both ways, and think about which way to go. Rick set a station up the right wall and we continued west. Right away, we began crawling again, and soon we were back digging at the floor to squeeze through.
Another 100 feet along, at Station 20, I heard Rick say that he’s found something interesting. I was third in line, so I don’t get to see right away. A stal’ hung on the passage wall, right over a floorless crack where you had to squeeze past with no foot support. Somehow everyone got past without breaking it. Then we entered an-other room. This was a real room, with a nice clay floor to walk on and a solid wall to the right. We strolled in, and turned up the power on our Sten lights to see what we had. It looked big, around 20 by 40 feet. On the left was a gentle clay slope leading up, and above that a window — a big 20-foot-wide black window. This looked promising.
Rick set a station on the right wall and I started sketching. We moved up between breakdown blocks, and up beyond the window. What we had was an immense room, well over 100 feet in both directions, and we couldn’t really tell where it all ended. It was all tilted about 30 degrees, following strata that dipped northwest. The floor was tilted and roughly flat, composed of smooth clay, except here and there where buried breakdown blocks poked up, hooded in clay. It would have made a good West Virginia cornfield except for the tilt. The ceiling spanned not far overhead, about 30 feet up, with a large ceiling ledge arcing down and across the bottom end of the room.
At this point I was sketching nonstop, and was glad that Chris was there to handle the data and struggle with cross sections. Soon I saw that my 20-to-the-inch sketch was not going to cut it. At that rate I’d have a least one page with no walls—maybe no stations, unless we made a splay shot into the middle of the room. I started another sketch, redrawing what I had done at 40 feet to the inch.
We continued the survey underneath that ceiling ledge, and across the bottom of the slope. In the west corner, the slope dropped farther, and down to a hole. Rick dropped through, saw that it continued, so we set Station 25 and left it as a lead. We took the survey upslope, along the southwest wall to a high breakdown block that leaned against the wall. Above it was a small lead, down a tube to running water. In the south corner of the room was another block with a passage leading west above it.
We set Station 28 at the corner of the room to survey the passage, then decided to map a side lead off that, in a crawlway between break-down blocks. Sketching was easy again. At Station 30 the passage became too small, so we returned to the main passage and headed west through some complex multi-level, tilted chambers, where we found another good lead up a tough slope cut by a fissure, much like the start of the Gunsight Loop.
Farther west, the passage became more straightforward, mostly comfortable walking passage or stoopway. At Station 36, a small fissure turned off to the right and, as Rick found by pushing the tight part, connected to the lead at Station 30. Another hundred feet west we descended into a smaller room, roughly spherical, and "only" 60 feet across. A small stream fell from high on the south wall, dropped into an alcove, ran along the south wall, and dropped in another waterfall to about 15 feet below the breakdown.
We placed Station 46 at the low north corner of the room where a lead ran off in two directions. The main passage continued west, through a tall, multi-level, s-turn into a third room, again round but smaller—about 30 feet across. Beyond that, we descended into yet another round room, about 40 feet across. The breakdown blocks there looked freshly cut, and some flowstone showed scars where they had hit. A streamway entered from a fissure on the left wall, from the south. It was yet another lead. We set Station 51 in the middle of the room.
At that point it seemed to be getting late. No one had a working watch, but there was talk of going back and finishing the big room. We had to finish that. Rick set Station 52 down at the bottom, northeast corner of the room. An arch there showed where passage continued, but it contained a drop, about 15 or 20 feet down off the breakdown blocks that choked the passage. We looked for a route underneath, but did not find any holes. The lead needs about 40 feet of rope and rope pads.
Back at the big room, we picked up the survey again in the south corner and started along the southeast wall, at the foot of a 10-foot floor ledge with a long slope above to the true wall. Farther east, that wall was broken by a large window, leading up to yet more space above. The climb to it is a steep, 45-degree climb on what looks like smooth rock. We continued below the wall, still on a tilted, clay floor. The sketch I was doing spilled onto another page. We discussed names for the room, which had to be called something.
The date was April 14th and the 95th anniversary of RMS Titanic’s rendezvous with an iceberg. I thought "Titanic" fit, both the room and the MDC-naming theme. I don’t think anyone else was thrilled, but I had the sketch and stuck on a "Titanic Room" label.
Farther along, Rick set Station 56 in a small hole about head-high up a vertical wall. It seemed odd to focus on such a small hole in such a large room, but Rick says it goes big, possibly up into the space above the window, and would be a much safer route. On the wall beyond that hole, we could see more leads, which will be difficult to reach. Finally we set Station 57 in the extreme eastern corner of the room. The passage continues beyond that station in what appear to be difficult climbs both down and up steep bedding-plane slots.
We turned around, descended from that corner down the steep but walkable floor, shot to the northeast wall, then connected our 60th survey shot to Station 23 to make a loop. From the sketch, which covered almost two pages at 40 feet to the inch, the room stretches about 180 feet north-south and east-west. That’s corner to corner. The plan-view size is about 150 feet square.
We headed out, back through the crawls. Nobody broke the stal’ at the Titanic Room entrance, and I hope to see it hanging there when I come back. We left the passage at Station 16 untouched, without even a step in that direction. Back at the sewer I had to sketch our first two stations, which I’d skipped because I had not wanted to go back in the water. It looks like the little lake can be drained with a trench, running about six feet and maybe a foot deep. That, or bring more rocks to help fill it.
We made camp by 11 pm. Pete’s team returned some time later, not long after we’d gone to bed. Pete said they had shot 700 feet and left leads, which, added to our 1500 feet, made 2200 feet of survey. He mentioned seeing an unusually large amount of water coming through the streams. I had been hearing a faint rumble from the falls near camp, but I remembered hearing them before and didn’t think much of it.
The next morning on our way out, streams were really dumping water through Columbia Canyon. Little holes in the wall you wouldn’t notice otherwise now spewed cascades across the passage. Rick, Chris, Kevin, and I reached the 125-foot drop by around 11:00 am. The stream there, which had flooded the passage during a survey years before, was not up very high, though it was starting to pool around the breakdown, and one could watch it advance slowly where the floor was nearly flat. To me it didn’t seem to be rising fast. I thought the worst the second team would see was a couple of feet of wading. The waterfall did, however, make an impressive amount of noise.
The climb to the entrance went smoothly, with the noise of water rumbling through the Puppet Buster and many other places, but not making things difficult. Chocolate Surprise was a lake. I crawled though first, then the rest of the team dug out the drain to lower it a couple of inches.
Even with that delay, we saw no sign of the other team. It was not until 5 pm that we got the email that Pete, Dominik, and Scott were out. They said the passage had filled quite a bit after we had walked through.
ZM6: small lead on right wall, also steep (55 deg?) sloping slot leading up back south which needs aid and may contain leads in the upper corners.
ZM8: steep (50 deg?) sloping slot leading up back south which needs aid (?) and may contain leads in the upper corners.
ZM16: 10 by 6 high passage heading southeast.
ZM25: passage heading down-dip.
ZM27: hole in floor between stations 26 & 27.
ZM35: 3 x 6 high canyon heading southeast at top of fissure climb.
ZM44: dome at top of waterfall on south wall, might be reachable along ledge, probably needs aid.
ZM46: hole below wall goes to passage heading two directions.
ZM51: fissure on south wall to 2 foot wide passage.
ZM52: 15 x 15 passage beyond 15-20 foot drop, needs 40’ rope and pads.
ZM56: 3 x 3 hole in wall goes up to 15 x 10 tall passage.
ZM57: 15 by 15 alcove with steep slot passages heading up and down.