Y and Z

Well, I sort-of forgot I had a blog, and did not write up the last two trips I did almost two years ago, to complete my Alphabet Caving Project.

Y was Yellow Ribbon Cave. There still was a little yellow flagging tape hanging by the entrance, despite it being very old in the database. The landowners were very friendly and it turns out their kids had been in the local caving club at one point, years ago!

The location was not accurate, and we spent equal parts chatting with the owners and searching for the cave, and only a small fraction of time in the small cave itself.

The Bitter End

Z cave was Zanja, a really funny cave of not much, but it had interesting mud formations and drain hole, probably due to the lake level it is near we suspect. There were some really nice formations at the end of it too!

Old mud level, clean space where it has washed out, current mud level
The end of the Z Cave, and the end of the Alphabet Caving Project

X is for Xi Cave

There are not many good X-Y-Z caves in Alabama! Of course, some would point out my alphabet caving is TAG, not just Alabama, but I only have access to the Alabama Cave Survey so it is easiest….and there are not many good X-Y-Z caves in the others either. (Yes, I know, Xanadu, I just…it’s hot. I don’t like long hikes to caves. Especially in the heat of summer. Also, getting a trip there seems to be difficult.)

Anyway, in an effort not to stay stagnant and finish up this year, I happily found Xi Cave (as in the Greek letter) in the ACS. It had a crawl, with dot-dot-dots! I like dot-dot-dots! On old surveys it usually means something went, but it wasn’t worth it back-in-the-day to push.

Xi did not disappoint. Alexander and I headed off to find it at 0930. After about a 20-min walk, we started down the mountainside. We were not sure how accurate the coordinates were and we looked everywhere, walking the sides of the wash looking for the cliff it was described to be in.

Puzzled and hot and wanting to cool off we decided eventually to check out the wash itself. It really is beautiful.

We found where the water sinks into silt. There was indeed more bedrock down here.

Below it, we found cave! I would not describe it as in a cliff, but I suppose it was about a 5-6-ft cliff when you looked down at it. But the tops and edges were covered by boulders, so it did not give your typical cliff appearance.

We felt air.

We saw animal tracks.

We started to survey, and then realized as we cleared out some debris to make the passage easier we were disturbing a ground hornet nest at the entrance where we were tossing things.

We quickly left it alone! Being stung in a cave is not on my bucket list!

All in all an amazing trip and I can’t wait to return… 😉

Amata in the entrance of Xi

W is for Well Then Horror Hole

My friends Brandon and Troy found a new pit recently, and invited me to check it out. Apparently, I was the third person to visit. While they have not surveyed yet, Troy taped it to 186-ft deep, broken in two distinct drops.

The top is very small, not so much to be a huge problem, but tight and awkward. In fact, it is easier to switch to left hand rappel based on where the tiny bit of “elbow space” is.

Entering the SqueezeTroy entering the constriction on the first pitch, while I wait at a “land bridge”.

Once through this tight spot, the pit opens up and actually looks pretty impressive for a bit, and it looks like there are side passages to neighboring domes (so far nothing goes). A little bit of a rebelay/traverse line gets you to the nicely free-hanging second drop.

Drop #2Troy maneuvering to the second pitch.

Down at the bottom there are some nice large horn coral fossils, I am guessing based on what the limestone looks like in other caves in this area that it is Monteagle at the bottom, as there is a bit of a thin shale-y layer we passed on the second drop that is classic of the thin and spotty Hartselle formation in this region.

One side of the bottom looks like there might be going passage up high – Brandon climbed this on a previous trip and said it was another dome.

Look Inside a Horn CoralHorn coral.

Nothing much else to look at, we started climbing back up. Troy went first so I could get a decent shot of the pit, well, really the second pitch. In taking the photo I noticed there was a creepy wedged boulder right above me!

Hanging Rock DropThanks to Brandon and Troy for letting me see your new-found cave!

V is for Vision Pit

As one can imagine, I got stuck on “U” for a long time with alphabet caving. There are few good “U” caves and with the discovery of Unterstein…well my time got zapped to that. I had hoped to finish Alphabet Caving by end of 2015 and of course…with my U…that did not occur. So now, an entire year later, I am back at it! V it is…and luckily Dave Hughes found Vision Pit recently (V is a difficult letter as well!).

So instead of fretting over the 2016 Presidential Election today, Alexander and I took to the hills to drop into Vision. It is a nice open drop (photo by Alexander):

alexander-took-of-me

I was a bad caver and forgot my rappel rack! It turned out okay, the pit is very freehanging and so after Alexander descended, I pulled up his rack and used it myself. It worked out, as we needed to adjust the rig slightly anyway so I was able to adjust it as I pulled the rope to haul up his rack.

It is a beautiful pit listed at 120 feet deep. A tall 30 foot column, “jellyfish” formations, and lots of curtains. I bet when it is not drought, this cave is even prettier.

bottom-of-vision-pitThe frogs! The salamanders! There were many of each, and we had to watch our step. There were three different species of frogs, but all the salamanders were the same (Northern Slimy).

froggie bumpy-frogThere were two little rooms, and one was rather muddy so we looked with our eyes and said “that’s nice” and moved on. It was tiny anyway, the end was right there. The other room was larger and in wet weather probably the rimstone fill with water. Gingerly canyoning across to keep it clean we went to the end of that room. It is a very nice decorated little area with some lillypads, flowstone, and rimstone, and some probably-were pearls that are now conglomerating.

alexander-in-colorBottom explored we started to head back out, but not before snapping some photos of black-tipped curtains. It was interesting how some had black edges, and others did not, all in the same formation section. Usually bacon is pretty uniform across an area but not here.

black-tipped-curtainsWe de-rigged and headed back down the mountain in the sunset. Luckily our cars were where we left them – the parking area listed in the Alabama Cave Survey wiki was closed so we just parked off the road where we were not in the way. All in all a lovely midweek cave trip and the perfect place to be on election day afternoon.

hiking-back-down

U is for Unterstein Cave

Unterstein = Under Stone

This is a different post from usual…I have been shooting video and been making clips.

What started out as a normal ridgewalk with my dog, Edraith, happily running back and forth between myself, Brian, and Alexander, turned into a dig project when Edraith indicated a hole. With zero surface indication I was dubious but she was intent (and loves caves). I stuck my hand over the fist-sized hole and felt cold air blowing out! It was good enough to end our ridgewalk and switch to digging 😀

Day 2: The day we named it:

Day 3, the second day into the cave!

It is still going, and still blowing, and we are exploring!