Blue Ridge Grotto of the NSS


October 17, 2014 – Vinton Firehouse


Meeting began 7:38p (D. Socky substituted until M. McConnell arrived)

Marian McConnell - Chair             Dan McConnell                                 Carl Cornett                        Bob Alderson    

Dave Socky  - VChair                       Al Stewart                                           Susan Burr                          Jen Perdue

Mary Sue Socky – Sec                    Joseph Caldwell                                John Fox                              Bob Gulden

Stephanie Petri- Treas                   Dusty Gulden                                    Nicole Gulden                   *Odin Gulden   

*Gretchen Boeren (NB)                                *Michael Lancense (NB)                               *India Akers (NB)            * Ivan Sexton

*Dr. Mike Rowland                         *Renee Rowland                             *Sarah Rowland               *Paul Thomas Rowland                

*Christopher  Rowland                  *Laura Rowland                                                                (* denotes guest)                           


Trip Reports:

7/4:  Stephanie Petri, Erica Sugrue and company visited Caney Fork Cave, TN in bathing suits.

7/8: Stephanie Petri & friends did The Sinkhole, TN (155’ pit)

NSS Convention:

7/15:  Stephanie Petri, Brian Williams, Mark Wenner dropped 140’ War Eagle Pit, AL

7/16: Stephanie Petri, Brian Williams, Kris Weatherford, Wes Combs dropped 190’ Natural Well, AL.

7/17: Stephanie Petri, Adam Lake, Keeley Owens and company did a night rappel into 165’ Neversink,  AL in search of glow worms.  None were found.

7/18: Stephanie Petri, Kris Weatherford & Wes Combs dropped 90’ Glove Pit, AL in the pouring rain.  The entrance to Glove Pit is in the shape of a bat!  They then located and did another nearby cave, 50’ Shameless Pecker Pit AL.

8/1: Stephanie Petri and Adam Byrd entered Shoveleater Cave, WV. Hours later they arrived in Hellhole, WV.  They camped, did Diggers Hall, and climbed ‘535 Perseverance Dome. 

8/29: Stephanie  Petri, Adam Lake, Keeley Owens visited Valhalla, AL.  Valhalla has a nice 279’ entrance pit. 

8/29: Stephanie Petri, Adam Lake, Keeley Owens did another night visit to Neversink, AL.  They actually saw glow worms (or is it foxfire fungi?) this time.

8/30: Stephanie Petri, Brian Williams, Adam Lake  & Keely Owens rappelled 155’ Cemetery Pit, GA.

(9/3): Bob Alderson and Mark Minton worked in an Unnamed Cave.  Mark pushed a 60’ fissure up above the stream passage.  Bob describes swimming in full cave gear and pack –‘if you stop swimming, you will sink!  They also found a small slot, and a crawlway with an undesirable dig.  (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips

9/13: Stephanie Petri, Brian Williams, Carlin Kartchner travelled to Smyth Co. VA  for a survey trip into Missed Opportunity Cave, VA.  Everything was virgin, shifty, unstable.

9/20: Stephanie Petri,  Adam Lake and Monongahela Grotto members rappelled 660’ Whitesides.  Steph also did a solo ascent (instead of climbing tandem). 

9/27:  Marian McConnell and Carl Cornett led a P&R trip for Boy Scouts into Island Ford Cave, VA.  This was an interesting trip with some challenging kids.

9/27:  Bob Alderson & Dave Socky drove up to Alleghany Co.  and contacted the owner of Lowmoor Cave, VA.  The owner’s house sits atop the cave.  Lowmoor is a mine and a cave.  The limestone mine was active from 1877 to 1927.  The owner took them through the mine/cave on an ATV.  He also pointed out the cluster of Indiana Bats in the mine; they are in an adit way past the cave entrance, and will be avoided.  Bob says there are many project possibilities in there.  BRG does have permission to survey and do conservation stuff in the cave – date is Nov. 2 (upcoming).

10/1: Unnamed Cave. Participants included David Socky, Bob Alderson, Mark Minton, Yvonne Droms, Zeb Lilly, Mark Hodge, John Haynes (Geologist), Merat Maxwell (Texas), and Phil Lucas.  One group headed to the back of the cave, almost a 2 hour trek, to do a climb, survey, and check the siphon.  The other group used cave expansion techniques to try and get through narrow passage at a good blowing lead at the Ear Dip.  They did not get through on this trip.  The high lead didn’t go, the survey netted about 200 feet, and the siphon goes large – it is divable.  A final task was to open a dig by Maggie’s Way.  They finally broke through into a medium sized breakdown room, with at least 2 leads off this room.   (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips

10/4: Stephanie Petri, Ben Mirable, Adam Lake checked out Lane Lee Cave, WV.  The dig is blowing air!  They are trying to connect it with nearby Hurricane Ridge Cave, WV.

10/4: Fountain Cave, Augusta Co. VA   David Socky, Gretchen (Red) Schock, Doug Schubert (survey), Mary Sue Socky, and Carol Tiderman.  Carol and Mary Sue worked on the dig for a little, while we did survey in “The Destruction of Jerusalem” area and the small room beyond.  This was a ‘survey class’ so our progress was slow - only 108 feet was done.  There was lots of lead checking in small tight spaces, making sure there was nothing left unchecked.

10/4:  Bob Alderson, Chris Haynes, John NLN (geologists), Mark Minton took a very short trip into Butler Cave, VA.  The geologists described the cave for the survey.

10/7: Unnamed Cave.  (9.5 hours survey trip with 327 feet surveyed).  Mark Minton, with Yvonne Droms and Dave Socky, did a bolt climb up into a high lead near the end of the HT survey.  It was really muddy.  Unfortunately, it didn't go.   They went back to the blowing lead by the Ear Dip where the other group (Phil Lucas, Maret Maxwell & Mark Hodge) had just gotten through and found going passage, enough for two survey teams.  One way eventually ended, but the other, a high canyon, needed bolts and a rope to get down a 15 foot pit.  Mark Minton did the climb and declared it a good going lead.  Again, it would have to wait for the next trip.  (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips

10/8: Catawba Murder Hole Video Shoot.  David Socky, Mary Sue Socky, Carl Cornett, Marian McConnell, & Dan McConnell accompanied the cast and crew of Travel Channel’s “Expedition Unknown” series.  (This episode, which focused on the Beale Treasure, should air in early March 2015.)  Almost everyone rappelled into the Daylight Cave, filming the rappels, then filming in the Daylight Cave.  We then went into the Screw Hole and down the Ski Slope where we filmed in the second level.  Their cameras were so light-sensitive that they could use only the talent’s lights for the filming.  By the time we got out of the cave it was 8:30pm.  It was a long, interesting day. 

10/11: TAG:  Stephanie Petri, Brian Williams, and Bill Walker visited Gourdneck Cave, TN.  It was a water cave, with lots of pretty formations.

10/12: TAG: Stephanie Petri and Brian Williams rigged and did the 100’ drop in Cagle’s Chasm, TN

10/12: TAG: Stephanie Petri, Brian Williams did Snail Shell Cave, TN to the upstream sump.  And this was after they paddled a mile into the cave!

10/13:  Dave Socky, Phil Lucas and Mark Hodge took a 6 hour trip into Unnamed Cave. This was to be just a short trip to replace the temperature/pressure data logger in the stream just a half hour into the cave.  We also used the time to repair the wooden ladder and make a few of the crawlways easier to traverse.  Since Phil had come up with this cool survey sketch pad with waterproof paper, we surveyed a few hundred feet of the historic section of the cave.  It was nice to get out before dark for once! (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips


Tomorrow:  No Cave Trip.  The 10/18 BRG trip to New River Cave, VA was cancelled.  If you want to do something fun, go to GO FEST in downtown Roanoke, VA on the banks of the Roanoke River. 


Next month:  Nov. 22 – Sinkhole cleanup in Botetourt Co. VA.  (Bill Keith).  (NOTE: since the BRG meeting, this cleanup has been postponed, will be rescheduled in spring 2015.)


Upcoming Trips:

o   Oct. 24-25 – Haunted Lab, 6-10p.

o   Oct 25 – VPI Mock Rescue. 

o   Nov. 2 – Lowmoor Cave survey & cleanup.  Bring your santa hats to Lowmoor!

o   Nov. 22 – Sinkhole cleanup (see notes above).

o   Dec 13 - Drone Day @ CMH.  Cavers will go to the lowest levels.  Must be vertically competent.


Program:  Dave, Nick and Mary Sue Socky’s visit to a lava tube while visiting Hawaii in June 2014.  No active lava, but Surprise Cave, HI contained neat and unusual formations and goat bones. 




TREASURER’S REPORT (submitted by Stephanie Petri):

10/17/2014 Balance Sheet

General Fund:   $3249.08

Conservation:    $227.34

Equipment:        $235.36

Petty Cash:         $110

Cave Bucks:        $203.30    

   Total: $4025.08


NEWSLETTER –Thanks for the articles and photos! Keep them coming!

MEMBERSHIP –We have 55 members and 4 subscribers for 2014.  Pay your dues in November! 

ROCKS – see reports on Lowmoor Cave, the upcoming sinkhole cleanup, and ridgewalking (in trips, above.)

SAFETY & TECHNIQUES – BRG will have winter vertical training at River Rock Climbing Wall, select Sunday afternoons, starting mid-Jan 2015. 


MEMBERSHIP PROPOSALS – None tonight, though there may be several in upcoming months.



·         Owner of Blue Ridge Vineyards wants BRG to check out more new caves on his property.  We decided to do this in winter, and first trip would possibly be Nov. 2 IF we find more bats in Lowmoor and must abort the trip. 

·         RSVP for the December 13th Catawba Murder Hole video trip to the lower levels.  You must be a vertically competent BRG member.  Contact  to sign up.

·         Donation to the New River Cave Preserve. (Susan Burr) Treas. Stephanie was given info to send the $250.00 to the NSS for the purchase of New River Cave.  Check’s in the mail.

·         Haunted Lab Oct. 24& 25.  Let MSS know if you are interested.  (Bob Gulden, Marian McConnell signed up)

·         CCV Grant money – is available to help with cave conservation.  DRS will look into the grant deadlines.

·         BRG Christmas Card design – will print 75, bring a design to Nov. BRG meeting, and everyone bring a Santa hat to wear for a “Christmas photo” to be taken in Lowmoor Cave on Nov.2. 

·         BRG Christmas Party – will be Sunday, Dec. 21 (Solstice Party ?) at Dave & Mary Sue Socky’s house.  1p -5p.

·         Vinton Firehouse renovations – no news from C. Heptinstall.  Jen Perdue reports that we can use Cave Spring Firehouse as alternative meeting site if renovations close the Vinton Firehouse meeting room. 

·         BRG Survey Gear – Dave Socky sent old gear into Forestry Supplies to get them cleaned, refurbished. Compass & Clinometer are ready to be used.



·         BRG Officer nominations next month.  All current officers must vacate their positions  

New Officer Nominations:

Chair:                    Stephanie Petri  NSS # 62805RE.  Nominated by Susan Burr, 2nd by Dave Socky.

Vice Chair:           Bob Gulden, NSS 13188RL.  Nominated by Susan Burr???   2nd by Dave Socky???

Secretary:           Marian McConnell, NSS 37358FR.  Nominated by Dave Socky, 2nd by Susan Burr.

Treasurer:           David Socky, NSS 16334RL.  Nominated by Mary Sue Socky, 2nd by Susan Burr.


The nominations will remain open until voting on Nov. 21, 2014.


·         NATURAL BRIDGE KARST:  BRG has three guests from Natural Bridge of Virginia: 

Gretchen Boeren – Conservation, India Akers – Caverns Manager, Michael Lancense – Caverns guide.

Natural Bridge, under new ownership, is “a whole new mojo”, said Gretchen.  The emphasis is now on identification, preservation, and education.  (YAY!)  NB would like Blue Ridge Grotto to help them.  They have no documents, maps, or GPS locations of their holdings.  They need expertise for their 1600+ acres.   After some discussion and reminiscing over the old days when Cuddington was allowed to rappel the Bridge, it was decided:

o   Blue Ridge Grotto will be happy to help.  We need to set up a cavern trip and ridgewalk. 

o   Dave Socky, Bob Alderson, etc. will be attending VSS meeting, will make arrangements to send copies of the property’s cave maps (1990’s era) from the VSS files. 




·         Thank You to Michael and Renee Rowland for their donation to BRG of a copy of  WVASS Bulletin # 15 “The Caves and Karst of Pendleton County” (& map packets), by George Dasher.   These were available at Fall VAR 2014 for $5.

·         11/8/2014: WVCC Banquet, Lewisburg, WV.  Guest speaker:  Bill Balfour, with “Culverson, Up the Creek”.  Also banquet registrants may attend a Rapp’s Cave trip earlier in the afternoon, before the meeting. 

·         11/22/2014:  Virginia Cave Board Meeting @ Natural Bridge, VA.   

·         WNS Decon protocols – HOT water (122 F) for 20 min. will kill WNS spores.

·         S&T – let Dan McConnell know what you would like in vertical training. 

·         MURDER HOLE book by Marian McConnell is available.  NSS members can get discount if they order MURDER HOLE through the NSS Office.


Meeting adjourned at 9:19p


Minutes Submitted by

Mary Sue Socky BRG Secretary