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Postby paul » May 10, 2007 6:57 am

Stridergdm wrote:I'm going to have to disagree on that. Experienced cavers can make mistakes and often do.

In some cases it can take just a moment distraction as you take a wrong turn or follow someone else down a passage.

Also, experienced cavers often get themselves into different sorts of trouble.

Inexperienced cavers for example are less likely to push a tight passage, so searching for them typically means looking in the big/obvious places first.

Experienced cavers are often more likely to push the tighter stuff, try the hairier stuff.

So, again, I'm not sure based on what little I've seen these folks could be classified as spelunkers or experienced or anything.

Just my 2 cents.

Reminds me of an article in the British caving magazine, Descent: "How I Wasn’t Stuck, Jammed or Entombed! Ever since he donned a poly bag to better squeeze into a tight cave – and was rescued as a result – Colin Boothroyd has taken some stick. For the first time, he tells his own story to put the record straight." Colin is a very experienced and well-known caver here in the UK. :-)

For what its worth, An analysis of British Cave Rescues for th eperion 1989 to 1998 has a breakdown of Cave Rescues here in the UK.

Most incidents are due to "being lost or overdue" and also most "casualties" are Caving Club members. It isn't that uncommom for cavers to underestimate the length of time a particular trip will take, hence leading to a call-out - but I don't know what the ratio of "lost" to "overdue" is.

We also take the stance that it is best not to discourage caves calling for help due to embarassment or whatever, in case they end up really needing help.
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Postby icave » May 10, 2007 9:18 am

George Dasher wrote:This group clearly didn't have the knowledge to find their way through the cave, or the experience to retrace their steps.

And that equals inexperience with the cave system and with caving. They were, at best, border-line spelunkers.

The solution was someone who knew the cave better, and/or more experienced cavers to help them find their way back.

How many of us have been on trips to caves that no one in the group had been to. I know we mostly try to get groups together that consist of at least one person that has been to the cave (or area of the cave) before, but it doesn't always work out that way.

I agree with George regarding the solution, I'm just making the point that it doesn't always work that way. Personally, when I take beginners, I prefer to have at least 3 experienced cavers that I know the abilities of and can trust. But, like I said, it doesn't always work out that way.

True spelunkers would have continued to try to find their way out, run out of light and fallen or tripped and gotten hurt. Staying put in a difficult situation can be taken as a sign of experience. However, not having a due back time can be taken as a blatant sign of pure stupidity.
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Postby George Dasher » May 10, 2007 1:37 pm


I wonder if all these compliments will stop once you all see my name in the next issue of American Caving Accidents.

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Postby cavingstud19 » Dec 27, 2007 12:15 am

Last April I went caving with Skye, Keri, Dan, and Jason. We went down to West Virginia Friday and slept in Bowden Cave. That night we explored in Bowden more than we had on a previous trip. Bowden was pretty open in the section we were in; we didn't go too far in since we didn't have our helmets on or extra batteries for our lights.

That night was pretty restless. I woke up to Dan having a horrible coughing fit which made me really worry about him. He said it hurt to breath, but he said he was fine anyway. After the coughing stopped I fell asleep and woke up shortly with a migraine. I knew I was going to regret not getting sleep in the morning because we all had a long day ahead of us. In the mroning we finished driving to Simmons Mingo Cave. Dan and I had been through about 1/3 of the cave during the previous winter, and this time we were planning on doing a through trip of the cave (in one side of the mountain, and out the other). Jason said he did it in 8 hours before, so we facored in the size of our group and the fact that there were two girls along (Keri and me)- so we alotted an extra 2 hours... bringing the grand total to between 10 and 11 hours.

Upon arriving at the cave we had to change, tke a car over to the exit on the other side of the mountain, and dig ot the entrance to the cave since some dirt was piled up in it. Before entering the cave we took our "before" picture which looks a lot like a silly family portrait... After taking the picture it was around 11am and time to go in. The Zarathustra entrance is just a little hole in the side of the mountain. You have to balance on a tree root and then straddle the entrance. Once you're in it is just a little slot you wriggle down.

So, after sliding down in the first main room it's plenty big enough to stand up in. There is a mudslope that you have to walk across so we tied off a climbing rope to help us across for safety- because down the slope is a huge drop off with a waterfall cascading down the wall. The next memorable part of the trip after that was "City Blocks" about 3 1/2 hours into the trip. This is a section of huge boulders with big, deep crevices you have to jump over- sounds fun, huh? At this point it had felt like we were caving for a while, but we weren't even half way through yet. While going through the cave you come across climbing ropes that were left by previous cavers. Some have footholds in to help you up or down a wall. Well, we used a few of them and then it came the time for the wet part. Simmons Mingo Cave has an underground water system moving through it. Did I mention the water is freezing? We had no choice but to walk through it. I played hopscotch on the above-water rocks until I have no choice... and then my feet and 1/2 of my shins were numb in no time. Skye and I were in the front when we came upon the waterfall which we had to climb up... I thought he was kidding when he said we had to go up it. No one warned me about this part... but they said once we get out of the water we're almost out of the cave... so I did it. You had to plunge your hands under the rushing water to hold on to the rocks as you climbed. At the top the wet part is still not over yet. There is more water to wlak through and then the belly crawl part. jason still claims there is a way to support your core and keep it dry while crawling through the section with the low ceiling and water coming at you. I was tired of holding myself so I gave up and collapsed into the freezing water- soaking the whole front of my body. (brrrrr) At this point Keri and I had been asking for a few hours, "How much is there to go?" (not to be obnoxious- but we just needed to know how much energy we were going to need). Each time we would ask jason and Skye would answer, "Almost there," or "We're almost done." At the end of the wet part there was a rope to climb up and from that point there was supposed to be about an hour left.

We had been caving for about 10 hours at this time, so we were on schedule. Skye and Jason had been through this part of the cave quite a few time before and me and keri were quite energized thinking that in an hour we'd be outside basking in the fresh West Virginia mountain air.

After another 45 minutes to an hour I heard Jason ask Skye, "Skye, does any of this look familiar to you?" He asnwered, "No." I wasn't worried yet, I was just really ready to be out of that cave. The details are a little sketchy at this point because everything seemed to run together from now until we were found on Monday afternoon. The first main thing I remember was leaning against a huge diagonal rock while Jason shared the last bit of food he had- we each got a little chunk of a 3 Musketeers Bar. Our water was already out by this point... We were talking about where we thought we needed to go and then Dan's watch beeped. He had it on a timer that would beep every 12 hours. Shortly after Dan started shaking badly, almost like a convulsion. We decided we should keep moving to keep the blood warm and circulating... but Dan only got worse. He started shaking so bad he could barely walk. He sat down on some rocks and we gathered around him rubbing his arms and breathing on his neck trying to get him warmed up. I told him that he had to stay strong for me, so I wouldn't lose it. He did a lot better after that... since then Skye and I like to joke with him saying "I saved your life." (and I get to say "I saved your life... twice!"- but that's a different sotry). So, we decided that our plan was to find our way back to the water part because that's where we got mixed up in the first place. We tried a lot of different passages... some of them multiple times... until we started making a system of marks to show we'd been down a passage and it was a dead end. Late Saturday night Skye squeezed his body into a small slot in the wall and he said it opened up. So, we followed suit... this part was so tight we had to break out a rope to help pull us through. We explored this ection, but after caving hard for over 15 hours we were all really tired. We were all slowing down noticeably so we decided to rest for a little while. We found a dirt spot (rather than rocky) and decided that was as good as it was going to get. Jason told us to try to put something between our bodies and the cold ground because it would drain our body heat quickly. I was amazed at hold cold it was when we stopped moving. Our body heat began to drop immediately. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep quickly, and I awoke to my body shivering and my teeth chattering. It had only been 15 minutes... and everyone else was experiencing the same thing. We realized that we needed to keep moving. It would first off keep us warm, and second off- if we were sitting still we weren't getting any closer to the exit. In that section of the cave there was a deep dropoff close to where we were laying. jason said we could go down there and explore but that would risk us getting stuck down there... and that would be bad. I think it was around 6:30am whern we went back out of the narrow slot to explore more of the cave. During our exploration we came across the section which we now all refer to as "The Maze."

For over 24 hours we wondered around a a big circle of rooms. Every path we'd find would bring us back to the room with "E31" painted on one of the rocks. It started to feel like an episode of The Twilight Zone after a while. Some of the paths you could stand up in and walk around, some you would have to get on your knees and stomach and crawl around, and then some included climbing up rocks. Every couple of hours we would have to break and lay down. We would all get close together and try to keep warm, but each time we'd wake up shivering really badly and have chattering teeth. At this point there was a dry crackly buildup of dirt around my mouth from lack of water. I still remember one part of the cave when we were all hearing water. There was a low crevice that I was volunteered to explored. I crawled on my stomach until my helmet couldn't fit anymore and I knew that it wasn't going to work, I was flat on my stomach crawling in soft powdery dirt. Any moisture I had in my mouth at this time was completely sucked out of it and the dirt was now there instead.

So, after exposure to cold temperatures for that long and being dehydrated I started seeing things. Most of the time it was creepy bugs crawling in a line on the walls and ground- which weren't there. In the "E31" room I saw quite a few things. Dan and jason had been up digging out a section of ground with some rocks they found so that Skye could squeeze through and drop down to another room and see if it led anywhere. In the ended it didn't... so afterwards we were all sitting around in E31 feeling defeated. When I looked across the room I saw Dan sitting down holding a shovel. I asked him where he got the shovel and he seemed really confused- and told me he didn't have anything in his hands and we left the shovel out in Jason's car. This was my first realization that I was hallucinating. I also saw a person leaning against the rocks beside Dan. It was a man that had his arm across this face so I couldn't see it. That scared me quite a bit and I had to blink quite a few times before it went away. In another room I saw a glowing red exit sign on the wall. There was also a white paper underneath it with written directions.

So, in E31 there were many paths out of it and we had explored each of them many times. Sunday morning we were in one of the passages and there was a big climb up from one of them. Jason decided that it would be worth a shot to explore it up there. As Skye was climbing up Keri, Dan, and I started to pray together asking for an exit, or someone to find us. We ended our prayer and heard Skye at the top (about 30 feet up) say that he had found the exit. I was super excited... words can't even describe it. As a group we decided that it was a pretty intense climb and that Jason and Skye would go up, get the cave map in Skye's car, and then come through the right way to get us (me, Keri, and Dan)- that way me and Keri wouldn't have to do the climb. -Typing that out I'm not sure what we were thinking. We should have just sucked it up and climbed up. Anyways, Jason went up with Skye and Dan, Keri and I sat at the bottom of the climb. We didn't want to move just incase they would return down through that way. We sat talking about how good it was going to taste when we went to Pizza Hut after we got out. We had planned our entire meal including a lot of pizza and a pitcher of both water and Mountain Dew for each person... after about two hours I thought they might be back soon. Dan said, "No, it's going to take them at least 3-4 hours to get back here." So, we sat waited more. We would each doze off for a few minutes here and there but mainly just sat quietly waiting... and then waiting some more. It was tough sitting still for that long. It just kept getting colder and colder. Not to mention, rocks are not the nicest thing to be sitting on for that long. Well, five hours came and went... then six... then seven.... then eight... and we were all worried. We should have heard something from them by then. We kept waiting and shortly after the 8hour mark we heard Skye's voice. We leapt up waiting for Skye to come down the climb he had gone up eight hours before... when Skye got down safely he ran over to Keri (his fiance) and hugged her saying he thought he was never going to see her again. We quickly learned that there was a huge room (probably almost the length of a football field) at the top and they got lost up there.

Skye had thought it was the exit because the exit normally has a huge "breakdown" room with tons of rocks just like this one had. I'm not completely sure on that part of the story from Skye or Jason's point of view- but I know that they had a lot of difficulty up there. At one point Skye's headlamp ran out of batteries when he was across the room from Jason. His reserve batteries were down in his backpack with me, Dan, and Keri. Jason had to flash his light from where he was while Skye slowly and carefully worked his way back to Jason so they could share lights. At another point they laid down and fell asleep for a while from exhaustion. After being lost in this section for 8 hours away from the group they found their way back down to us we decided that it might be best if we all climbed up and tried to stick together. While they were up there most of their time was spent trying to find their way back to us- rather than exploring that section of the cave. One by one we made the difficult climb up. At the top there was a good bit of squeezing and crawling and then it opened up into the big room. Skye and Keri laid down to take a break while Jason, Dan, and I kept exploring. In this room where the ceiling was low there were drops of water clinging to the ceiling. It was where stalactites were just beginning to form. We each held out our tongues and would let the water glide from the ceiling to coat our tongue. One drop felt like a mouthful. It was incredible. Cold. Refreshing. Amazing... I think I got about 5 drops of water when we had cleared the ceiling of any remaining droplets. It may not sound like much but it was truly marvelous. After having our drops of water exhaustion took over again. The three of us were still in the section with big rocks that we were walking across. So, we decided to sit down and rest a bit, which turned into each of us falling asleep almost immediately. We woke up sometime after a bit disoriented... but knew we needed to get up and move around some more. Our legs were started to stiffen when we'd stop for too long- making it even harder to get up and keep moving. As we were walking in the corner of one of the rooms we saw the letter "E" painted on the wall in black with an arrow pointed to the left. Jason turned to me and asked semi-jokingly "I wonder if 'E' stands for exit?" We laughed and decided to walk in that direction just in case. It was probably around 4am Monday morning at this point (dark outside). We had been caving for over 36 hours... about 41 at this point if you want to be technical. Well, we couldn't find anything that looked like an exit so we went back to find Skye and Keri. When we met up we decided to climb back down the 30ft. part and explore some more. I remember not being exactly thrilled with this idea since I knew how hard it was to climb up it. We all got down to the bottom and went back through E31 which we were all quite sick of at this point. More hours passed while exploring the area over and over again.

Jason was in one room looking around, Dan was in the one next to that, and then Skye, Keri, and I were in the one closest to Dan. We were all in earshot of each other... though we had all been praying in our heads all along Skye, Keri, and I decided to do a group prayer. It was there that we stood in a circle holding hands praying to God that we would find an exit or help would arrive and help us out. (I'm getting chills thinking about it as I type) Seconds after our prayer we heard someone yell "Skye!" Keri and I looked at Skye questioningly. Skye yelled, "Dan, where you calling me??" Dan yelled back with a no... and yelled to ask if Jason was calling for Skye... which he responded with a "no" as well. I was in disbelief. Skye yelled back, and we heard a voice yelling back again. It was happening. We were found. We were going to be okay. We weren't going to be lost forever in the cave. We were going to get out. We would see our families again. We were saved! All of us were shouting and running towards the man's voice... my legs were shaking like crazy but it wasn't from being cold- I was just so darn excited! The first rescuer to find us gave us Gatorade and granola bars. Skye went up to the man and gave him a huge hug while thanking him over and over again. Personally, I still couldn't believe it. In the back of my mind I honestly didn't think we were going to get out. Jason was strong and positive the whole time, but that didn't phase me. I still didn't have much hope- especially after hearing Dan's watch chime after each 12 hour interval.

The rescuers told us we'd have to climb up that 30ft. climb again (joy), but this time they had installed a rope to aid us up. That was quite the blessing. It still wasn't easy, but it did help to had something else to hold on to rather than rocks on the wall. All along on our journey out they were pumping sugar into us- more gatorade, snickers bars, and granola bars. The three guys had gone ahead, each with a cave rescuer while Keri and I brought up the tail end. Keri mentioned that her side and knee were really bothering her. So, they had us stop and do an examination of her to check for broken bones. I sat and waited until I heard them mention needing a backboard. I did the rest of the trip out without her. They kept her still while a group of men passed me later carrying a backboard for her. I had three people with me showing me the way on the way out. Two men and a woman. They were so nice and caring. They kept giving me words of encouragement as we neared the exit. I noticed that this all felt very familiar. When Jason, Dan, and I had explored early that morning we were just minutes away from the exit but since it was early morning there was no light coming from the exit. I remember seeing the light coming in through the hole at the top of a tall wall of rock and there were a lot of people up there. There was a rope dropped down and a woman quickly fitted me with her climbing harness. This was the best news yet, I didn't have to climb out... they had people at the top that were going to hoist me up. Thank the Lord! Haha :) As I approached the top the daylight was so bright! It was a little after 1pm on a beautiful, warm, sunny, West Virginia day. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. There were photographers all over the place snapping pictures while another person came up behind me wrapping me in a big blanket. I was so confused. The grassy area was filled with tons of cars and there were people everywhere. Down infront of me there were a few white canopies set up with cots underneath. Dan and Skye were already laying down and there was one empty one for me. They had me get out of my muddy Dickies coveralls and lay down. They made us drink while they did their medical checks of us. I laid there looking at the blue sky thinking about how thankful I was, and how I couldn't wait to talk to my parents and let them know I was okay. We got word shortly after that a helicopter was on its way to pick up Keri to transfer her somewhere for x-rays. Also, two ambulances were on their way to take us to a local hospital in Elkins, WV. Skye and Dan were loaded into the back of one on stretchers, while I had one all to myself. On the way to the hospital the EMT in the back with me warmed up some heat packs for under my arms and then stuck a breathing oxygen tube thing in my nose to help out. It wasn't very enjoyable... In the hospital they kept checking our stats and I got x-rays for my wrist (which was only sprained). Each of us had hypothermia and were dehydrated after spending 50 hours in Simmons Mingo Cave.

It's quite a happy ending to quite a harrowing story. I got to call my parents after I was discharged and they were on their way to the hospital!!! I was so excited. I got to see my mom and dad that evening. I gave each of them a huge hug when I saw them and we all exchanged tears. After spending quality time talking we saw it was around dinner time... 5pm or so... and we all headed out to Pizza Hut for our much-anticipated pizza dinner. None of us ate or drank and much as we had planned but it was still amazing.

That evening after eating we all headed home. Skye in his car. Jason in his. And me and Dan in the back of my parents' vehicle. I was asleep almost immediately and I don't remember much of the trip back. We got home around 2am Tuesday morning and I was never so happy to see my house as I was then.

My outlook on life changed after this happened. I went back to Kutztown Tuesday evening, which I realize was really stupid of me. I wasn't ready at all. I looked at things differently afterwards. I treasured each minute of each day. And I knew what was important to me... while I was in the cave I wasn't thinking about things like myspace, or email... or little things like that. I was focused on God and my parents. Looking back on things I wish I could have that vigor again. The internet doesn't run my life like it used to before caving. Last year I spent a lot of time at the computer, and I realized how unecessary it all was. If you've gotten through this whole post or even if you've scanned it and started paying attention to this last paragraph I'd like to challenge you to think about your life. What is most important to you in your life? Do you treat it like it is that important? Is there anything keeping you from treating it like it is dear to you? If there is something in the way maybe you can work on changing it and making your number 1 your number 1 again.
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Postby Scott McCrea » Dec 27, 2007 2:04 pm

Great report, cavingstud19! You had me on the edge of my seat. Another great example how little mistakes/problems can quickly add up and grow into a huge ordeal. Glad everything worked out.
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Postby Jeff Bartlett » Dec 27, 2007 2:34 pm

<------- is now going to buy a space blanket before his next trip! :shock:
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Postby shibumi » Dec 27, 2007 2:53 pm

Tim White wrote:\
Were we not all spelunkers or beginners once? If I make a mistake and require a rescue, am I now demoted back to spelunker status? :doh:

Of the 80 or so rescues I've been on, 4 were for what I would consider experienced cavers. We usually encourage the folks we rescue to get some more training if they want to continue caving, but occasionally
we very strongly discourage some to never ever set foot in a cave again.

I feel very, very good when I get to rescue an experienced caver. Not because they got in trouble, ha ha, but because we cavers are there for our own and my experience and training can help a member of my own community out of a problem that could just as easily happen to me.

And Tim, you will never be a spelunker to me :)
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Great report Cavingstud19

Postby Ernie Coffman » Dec 27, 2007 10:10 pm

That was a spectacular report on your part and you all perservered in that close call in Simmons-Mingo Cave. I was just putting my program together on Hypothermia, so...your timing was fantastic! It made me really "feel" for all of you. I'm surprised that your lights had enough battery power, for you never mentioned changing batteries or such. You might want to come back and let us know what all of you were using. As for your lack of water, you definitely were in need of that most of all. The food you can forget, for the most part, for you'd need water to make the food get digested. I don't want to ramble on, but would suggest all of you take an NCRC course...or at the least, take the OCR class sponsored by NCRC, for you had all the makings for a severe situation. I assume you left notes or told folks where you were going, so...that's why the rescue team got involved. What a spectacular cave trip for all of you!
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Postby adleedy » Dec 27, 2007 10:15 pm

xcathodex wrote:<------- is now going to buy a space blanket before his next trip! :shock:

one of the things i allways take with me.
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Postby InTucky » Dec 29, 2007 9:14 am

Cavestud, thank you very much for your first hand account of the story. It makes you realize how quickly conditions, and fatigue can make you disoriented. For the guys that posted up about the space blankets, that was one of the first things I bought, actually 2 of them, for $2 each, how can you go wrong. When we go there is at least 4 people that know where we are, and what time they should start to make something happen, because something is wrong. If I learned anything from aaron ralston, it was to let at least 1 person know of your where abouts. Also cavestud if you can recall, can you give us some specifics..........type of lights, how many lights, how much water, and how much food you had with you.
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re: Simmons-Mingo

Postby NZcaver » Dec 29, 2007 10:03 am

Space blankets are a great idea - so too are good ol' trash bags, kept in your pack or stuffed in your helmet. Cut some holes and wear one like a poncho, or make a heat tent.
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Re: Simmons-Mingo

Postby Cheryl Jones » Dec 29, 2007 10:00 pm

And carry one or two of those little "votive" candles in the aluminum holder (to catch drips) to place under/in your heat tent -- for example, if you're wearing the garbage bag sitting with knees bent up, then the candle is on the ground in the space under your knees.

I've found a "sit-upon" square of ensolite really helps preserve heat when I'm waiting in a cave, and if a few from cave buddies are put together they'll really help help keep the cave floor from sucking he heat out of a prone caver. (Swaygo even includes them with their packs now....I think.) It's easy and light weight to carry in a pack. A polyester balaclava really helps keep you warm too, and takes little space. You may pack this stuff on many trips and never need it. But the time you do, it will have been worth carrying all that time. :egyptian:

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Re: Simmons-Mingo

Postby Squirrel Girl » Dec 30, 2007 9:35 am

Cheryl Jones wrote:And carry one or two of those little "votive" candles in the aluminum holder (to catch drips) to place under/in your heat tent -- for example, if you're wearing the garbage bag sitting with knees bent up, then the candle is on the ground in the space under your knees.

Good plan. Now that I'm not on carbide anymore, it's no where near so good to be in a trash bag without the flame.
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Re: Simmons-Mingo

Postby George Dasher » Dec 30, 2007 6:29 pm


What is it like to be "on carbide"?

You can't just be "on alcohol" like the rest of us?
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Re: Simmons-Mingo

Postby Squirrel Girl » Dec 30, 2007 8:35 pm

George Dasher wrote:Mmmmmm...

What is it like to be "on carbide"?

You can't just be "on alcohol" like the rest of us?

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