Two Faces. One Cave
A rope tied to a tree overhanging the shaft twists downward into darkness. A cold draft blows down the pit on this cold, drippy, late November afternoon. Where is Lon Odell? He’s been down the pit at least 45 minutes since he’d bottomed it, then barely in earshot. We had to tie on a longer rope so that he could complete the final 60 feet pitch. When he stepped off the ledge, the elastic rope gave way under his weight and he yelped as he bounced, like a startled yo yo.
|The Arena. Rodney Tennyson Photo|
Where rappelling in had been exciting fun, ascending 150 feet of rope on primitive and unrefined gear was a major effort. We eventually were motivated to upgrade our vertical equipment, but not before some almost humorous incidents.
The Flitterin' Pit
|Flitterin' Pit—Tom Lounsbury|
We'd learned through Dr. Carroll Smith, faculty advisor to the Harding College cavers that there was another, even larger pit nearby. With the help of our local friend Albert Fulks, we went down the ravine on the south side of the ridge. There we found a gaping hole, divided near the top by a narrow natural bridge. The pit dropped 145 feet, and although it was much more voluminous than Janus Pit, we could find no ongoing passages at the bottom. There was a stream coming out of the east corner, flowing along the north wall, and disappearing into a sump in the eastern wall. The downstream sump later was the scene of elaborate activity as our caving friends supported several Southeastern cave divers, but no extensions were found. The upstream sump remains unchecked.
Cave River Cave
Where does all this water flow? It emerges at Cave River Cave, several thousand feet down the hollow. We demonstrated this in February 1975 by a fluorescein dye test, having left dye traps in both Flitterin' Pit and CRC. CRC is a beautiful stream resurgence at the base of a cliff. It was possible to enter, past a noisy colony of bats, wading, floating and swimming in inner tubes and wetsuits, to a sump room. There the water is over 15 feet deep, and the sump continues. Cave diving efforts in July, 1978 by Don Monnot and Ed Arters were successful in breaking through to extensive "dry cave" passages (air filled spaces) but no connections were made to the other caves.
|Brent entering Janus' Hassle|
|A well dressed vertical caver-Photo, Jeff Bartlett|
|Brent farther into Janus' Hassle|
We had learned that waiting time to climb out could be long and cold, and I'd gotten into the habit of putting on a heavy duty trash bag with holes for head and arms, plus a wool cap. Once on rope, the ascent was a warming exercise. Our vertical technique was incrementally improving, but the climb out was rarely easy for me.