A small pit just over 100 feet deep halfway up the mountain is always a fun thing to do on a weekday, right? The hike up was precisely 3/10ths of a mile – up steep karst terrain. At least the hike back would be downhill. The entrance has an impressive tree, and is hard to miss if you know that landmark, despite the hole itself being small.
We rigged to the tree on the right, because it brought it down a nice smooth rock to lead it into the corkscrew entrance. It wasn’t really that tight, just awkward. It reminded me of the enclosed spiral slides at playgrounds. A bit of a trip report from the past said they ended up using eight rope pads in this pit due to all the edges – indeed there were chert layers, and a lot of water fluting, some of which was a bit sharp.
I went in first to check it out. The corkscrew entrance meant the rope didn’t feed down, so I ended up deploying it as I rappelled. I saw a few spots a pad would certainly be needed, but it was all just a bit offset from where the rope dropped. Troy would bring pads down on his rappel, now that the rope was set and out of the way.
Troy ended up using NO pads. How, you ask? Well, the magic of deviations. A lot of people in TAG don’t do much “alpine” style SRT rigging at all. I know a bit from my British friends, Troy knows it because he does a lot of hard core caving and has a wide variety of experience, and Jon, our third musketeer for the day, knows it from his extensive vertical experience including the Berger in France. So, with all the nodules both chert and water-carved, two prussics with a carabiner each made two nice deviations. The rope ran over the smooth rock and dirt of the entrance slope, the first deviation pulled it off the rest of the spiral and hung it free, the second pulled it around the major ledge (enough space to get off rope and sit) about 20 feet down and made the rest of the about 100-feet remaining a complete freehang. The pit was small so you were still near a wall, but the rope itself was 100% free.
The fossils were neat: blastoids, crinoids, even some snailshells. There was a layer with small ones and another layer with large prominent fossils as well. We didn’t see any lizards, but there were quite a few salamanders.
I’m not sure what animal this was, probably more likely something that fell in then tried to claw it’s way out, but there in the mud was a great claw mark. It was about 2-3 inches in length, so a pretty good scratch!A photo of the pit. My flash decided not to work so I did my best to lightpaint and Troy did a great job staying still for a couple of seconds! It’s not the best photo but it gives a great idea of the pit and what it looked like. It seems to just be a fracture that separated in the mountain.
The wall was eroded away in such neat patterns, forming holes and sharp edges and latticework. It was so intricate I couldn’t resist taking a picture. I enjoy water-carved rock. On my climb out, I was serenaded with a song that Jon had made up on a previous trip. Troy was above me hanging out on the ledge about 20 feet from the top, Jon below at the bottom waiting to climb. The acoustics were amazing, and this is the best song I’ve heard in a long time!
That song is going to stay in my head for a long time =)