Alphabet caving continues to be interesting and have a rich history I find most intriguing.
Brian, Robert (a geologist and caver who recently moved to TAG), and myself headed south of the river to find King’s Pit for K. The entry for King’s didn’t make total sense, but the coordinates seemed accurate enough for the GPS conversion so we went with it! First knocking on the door of a house whom we thought owned the property. No one was home. Bummer. We moved on up the road and someone was home, and said “I think the person up on the right owns it.” We asked that house up on the right…and were told “I think my neighbor up the road on the right owns it.” This continued no less than nine times total, including a wild goose (or should I say, chicken?) chase to find a supposed landowner working that morning at a chicken house “just up the road”.
In our quest, we had encountered a very friendly gentleman named Clinnon who seemed quite happy to have company. He said he had a cave that about 15 years ago Brindley Mountain Fire Department had asked to do some rescue practice in, and he knew it had passage at the bottom. When our quest for the landowner of King’s Pit hit a wall, or should I say a pile of chicken poo, we decided to go back to Clinnon’s place and check out his cave. After giving us very good directions to it, we hiked on down.
A very impressive entrance! Large 20-25 foot wide crack in the ground, a bit of a drip of water but not much at this time. We looked for how we wanted to rig it and opted to go down in a way that broke the 85-foot drop into two. We actually walked down a crack to get to the rig-in spot, although we rigged all the way at the top to a good tree.
The drop is about 85 feet from the top in total. From this level in the photo above 10/15 feet less than that. Rigging on this side of the pit breaks the rappel into two, but is easily done with one rope going over a ledge partway down.
The first part of the drop.
This ledge has some good fossils, and a cute little side shoot with some nice flowstone and a good upper view of the room below. In addition, a high lead can be seen, if anyone is crazy enough to traverse around the pit. A traverse line could probably be bolted for exploration, if there is not another way to get to it from the main cave. However, easiest would be to figure out how to get to that level from within…a feat in and of itself.
The lower part of the drop.
The top edge in the above photo is the ledge I was standing on for the photo of the upper part of the drop. Put the two together, and you have the entire drop (minus the 10-15 feet from the very top where the rig is). The entrance chamber is large, and has some nice formations and cute side rooms.
Side formation room
Closeup of some splattermites forming.
Very interesting branching splattermites, forming in a downward angle.
We didn’t explore all the holes off of it as there wasn’t enough time. We did, however, climb through and down and around massive boulders to pop into walking passage where the water runs when wet. Instead of mud floor, there, was actually cobbles. There were formations pulsing with water drops, probably being fed by a pool with surface tension as they pulsed in rhythm. We passed by a bit of a waterfall as well. It was a lot of up-and-down, not straight walking, as mud mounds needed scrambled over, a slot crawled, then pop back into walking stream bed. The entire cave so far had been rather slick. Smooth cobbles coated in thin wet slippery mud, and of course, the wet slick kind of mud itself too thin to provide good traction.
We hit the end of that path. It started to have more and more airflow but we never found where the air was coming from. Not wanting to spend a bunch of time poking at the breakdown choke, we turned around and headed back to see where the upstream part of the passage took us.
Initially it was a bit crawly, but soon opened into a massive dome/canyon, clearly a junction area for the cave. Huge boulders that reminded me of Moby Dick in Kennamer cave were all over. (Although not quite that big, the sheer scale of the area is what brought that thought into my brain.)
The canyon continued on. We started hearing running water with good flow, but we couldn’t see it! We climbed up a slope and got to a window that overlooked a massive chamber with flowing water. We could hear it louder than before but still couldn’t see it, but we knew it was down there. A drop of about 30 feet prevented us from going down, because we had no more rope! So we continued on in the canyon.
Looping around we ended up even lower than before – the massive boulders to climb up, scramble around, or duck and crawl under made it a maze of a canyon! Again we heard the water loudly. Brian made his way up on water-carved sharp boulder the size of a school bus to peer into the darkness on the other side. Finally, eyes on the water! But we were still separated by a 20 foot drop. We were lower than the original window we had found, but not low enough.
Deciding against trying to slide down slots in the middle of the boulders (which seems like a bad idea with no rope and no idea how tight the slots got) we continued through the canyon. It narrowed and no longer were there huge boulders but instead a slippery mud floor (as always, in this cave!) and shoulder width walls with about 30-foot high ceilings. It was clear there were still multiple levels of cave here. We were heading uphill though, and the walls narrowed. Soon we were walking sideways, packs off and held at our sides. As the mud floor rose, the canyon got “shorter”! Eventually it was only about 15 feet above our heads. A rock projection in the middle stopped us, and knowing the trend would be smaller and smaller and shorter and shorter, Brian climbed over and back down the other side to scout.
Brian reported that it was shoulder width for a couple hundred feet, then sharp edges started poking out making it very awkward. Eventually it intersected the illusive water! But, it was an army crawl (2 foot ceilings at height, football shaped passage) in the water. Brian decided, “Interesting! But not for today…”. The amount of passage we had covered we know it must be a couple hundred feet of crappy crawling. The canyon passage continued beyond the 4-way intersection with the stream, but got worse and worse of course to traverse.
We turned around to head back out. We didn’t scout out half of the leads, easily, and there are a lot of huge rooms we barely set eyes on. The cave reminds me of a mini-Fern. No where near that massive or extensive, just the overall character of the 3-dimentionality and huge canyon with multiple levels and major junctions with pretty side rooms. I would say we traversed a good 3000+ feet of relatively complex passage, and would guess fully surveyed, the cave would be over a mile in length.
One of the pretty side rooms.
Now, this cave fits nothing currently in the ACS database, although it seems to fit little bits and pieces from multiple entries in Cotton Sinks. Thinking we had a new cave, we thought of the name Koccyx, because for one I was hoping for a K cave, and for two, well, I almost broke my coccyx when I fell. I bet everyone who ever does that cave is worried about falling and breaking something with how slick it is! We all about took a splat at some point or another! Excited, I turned it in to the ACS. Even though it was known at some point by a few, it clearly has been lost to the caving world for about 20 years, maybe more.
Here is where the story *really* gets interesting, as if this amazing “find” isn’t interesting enough! It is in the ACS. As THREE other caves. So good news, it’s re-discovered and the database can get straightened up!
This cave should really be known as Durbak Cave. It was initially discovered by Huntsville Grotto member Terry Faulker in 1963. But, due to confusion in the report, the exact location of Durbak was lost, and to make matters even worse the entry was misspelled Dubak.
In 1977, some folks went to a “new cave” dubbed Whispering Spring. A ladder was built for the short drop next to the larger diameter drop (the entrance of Durbak is actually two holes in the same “crack”, a smaller one and the large main one) and down folk went. Stu Clifton and Bill Witherow mapped a good bit of the cave and said it connected with Saving Well but this connection is unconfirmed.
Even worse, in 1994 Durbak was again submitted to the ACS as Kings Pit. The coordinates were so far off that it was difficult to make the connection that it is one in the same Whispering Spring and Durbak! However the coordinates turned in yield absolutely no caves, and the description of King’s Pit matches that of Durbak. They are all the same.
So. Yes, I found King’s Pit in the end! But….I also found Durbak, the misspelled Dubak that should have been Durbak, and Whispering Spring. Four caves in one day?! Not bad, I say!
On a side note, we plan on doing survey for Durbak (aka Dubak, aka Whispering Spring, aka Kings Pit, aka Koccyx!), so if you are interested, drop me an email! It has potential to connect to two other caves and become a pretty neat system.