Blue Ridge Grotto of the NSS


November 21, 2014 – Vinton Firehouse


Marian McConnell - Chair             Carl Cornett                        Bob Alderson                     Doug Feller

Dave Socky - VChair                        Al Stewart                           Susan Burr                          Jen Perdue

Mary Sue Socky – Sec                    Joseph Caldwell                Bob Gulden                        Sharon Mohney

Stephanie Petri- Treas                   Dusty Gulden                    Nicole Gulden                   *Odin Gulden

Karen Kastning                                  *Renee Rowland             *Sarah Rowland               *Paul Thomas Rowland

*Christopher Rowland                   *Laura Rowland                *Colin Beck                         *Carol Duvall

(* denotes guest)


Trip Reports:


10/23/2014 Unnamed Cave. 10.6 hours, 1164 feet Surveyed Team one: David Socky, Mark Minton, Bob Alderson, and Zeb Lilly. Team two: Phil Lucas, Mark Hodge, and Katelyn Mahoney. Bob and I arrived an hour early and installed a new wooden ladder at the climb-down near the entrance. We surveyed nearly 1200 feet of virgin canyon with some nice rooms and a mazy warren of passages to the left. The last room ended with a high lead which still has potential. The other team spent the whole day digging near the start of Aberrant Canyon. We exited the cave at 10pm. It was a good 10.6 hour trip. Virgin booty, yeah!! (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)


10/25/2014 Gap Cave, VA. 17 hours, 509 feet surveyed Team 1: David Socky, Bob Alderson, and Philip Schuchardt. Team 2: Nick Socky, Joe Calderone, and Bill Koerchner. Bill, Nick, and Joe went to Lost Joop Passage to survey leads. Bob, Philip, and I went all the way to the back to finally push the stream crawl. I got through the tight stream crawl by following Bob over a cobble and gravel bank. We ended up surveying a side passage, all 509 feet of it, and never got down the main stream. Wet suits were a definite must on this trip.


10/29/2014 Unnamed Cave. 11 hours, 160 feet surveyed David Socky, Mark Hodge, Phil Lucas, Bob Alderson, Mark Minton, Yvonne Droms. We went back to Aberrant Canyon where Mark Minton, Vonnie, and Bob put in a nail and traverse line in Aberrant Canyon while the rest of us dug at the blowing lead just past the start of Aberrant Canyon. We got through the dig and were able to survey 160 feet, but the nice canyon we broke into ended at another dig, which did have air. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)


10/31/2014 Backdoor Dig, VA. 6 hours, dig David Socky, Mark Hodge, Amos Mincin, Gregg Clemmer, John Sweet. This is a possible back door into the Burnsville Turnpike of Chestnut Ridge Cave System. A 32 foot vertical shaft with a wooden ladder all the way down with lots of good shoring. Then a 30 degree down tunnel which curved to the left and went down for about 50 feet, which had a nice bucket slide in it. This tunnel was pretty small in one spot, but opened up at the bottom. The dig face was another 20 to 30 feet in. The dig was into a narrow canyon which slopped downwards. The canyon had tight turns with ledges sticking out. Impossible to pass through, but it definitely goes and has air. We took out 28 buckets and blew 6 straws in two different sessions. It was muddy down there. Lots of rocks, gravel, gooey mud. It was a fun, but dirty dig.


11/2/2014 Lowmoor Cave, VA. 7 hours, 1300 feet surveyed Brian Williams, David Socky, Stephanie Petri, Bob Alderson, Joseph Caldwell, Bob Gulden, Nick Socky, Joe Calderone, Amy Skowronski, Sharon Mohney, Susan Burr, John Fox, Doug Feller, Jen Perdue, Mary Sue Socky, The Rowlands: Michael, Renee, Sarah, Christopher. Laura, and Paul Thomas. - This turned out to be a very successful BRG Grotto trip. We did survey & clean up. We had 3 survey teams. The clean-up crew hauled out about a dozen or more trash bags of trash. We also took our Christmas card photo in the cave. We got almost 1300 feet surveyed & finished up by 6pm. The colony of Indiana bats were gone from the balcony overlook. We saw only two big browns in the 'overlook' passage & no bats in the cave proper. This was reported to Wil.


11/2: Renee, Sarah, Christopher, Laura and Paul Thomas Rowland reported on their first ever “conservation clean-up” with BRG to Lowmoor Cave, VA. Dave Socky, Bob Alderson, and Bob Gulden reported on the re-survey; they are off to a good start, with 1300’ of cave passage surveyed.


11/8: How many cavers does it take to do a gate check? John Fox and Mary Sue Socky visited Rapps Cave, WV, along with 40+ people from WVCC. They explored the entrance room, and saw Native American petroglyphs.


11/8: Bob Alderson, Terry McClanahan, and Dwight Livingston went to Warner Noisy Blowhole, WV. They surveyed 500’ of breakdown passage.


11/11/2014 Unnamed Cave. 1 hour, Infrastructure: David Socky and Nick Socky. I took Nick on a quick tour down the historic route to the stream. We then climbed back out and went to my car and drove over to the spring where the dig was taking place. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)


11/11/2014 Unnamed Cave dig 1, VA. 5 hours, dig: David Socky, Nick Socky, Phil Lucas, Mark Hodge, and Zeb Lilly. This was a dig along a creek. The dig was a little up the bank on the opposite side of the creek. When Nick and I got there, they had gotten into a small room, a total of about 20 feet. It didn't take 5 cavers to dig, so some wandering about occurred. Nick and Phil ended up on the other side of creek up on the bank digging at another possible entrance. As Mark and I were digging, the other team across the creek took out a constricting rock and actually got into going cave! By this time Mark had gotten past our last breakup and was in going crawlways through breakdown. There was a crawl to the left and going stoop walk/crawl through breakdown to the right. But to do it justice, more cleanup would need to be done since it was really tight. We cleaned out what we could & went out to the entrance. While Mark cleaned up, Zeb, Nick, and I started an overland survey to the dig, then across the stream to the new entrance. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)


11/11/2014 Unnamed New Cave. 2 hours, 240 feet surveyed: David Socky, Nick Socky, Phil Lucas, Mark Hodge, and Zeb Lilly. A belly crawl entrance then opened into a small room with a sloping floor down to the stream passage with deep water which was obviously pooled, but swirling about a little. We surveyed 240 feet until we were stopped by a breakdown collapse.  There was a hole you could squeeze through where we could see going passage, but the breakdown needed to be stabilized first. Since it was late, we decided to leave this for another trip. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)


11/14/2014 Mammoth Cave - Austin Entrance, KY. 16 hours, Science trip.

Tim Bechtel, Felicia Bechtel, Peter Weston. Max Griffith, Leah Houser, Hannah Holder, J.D Mizer, Dave Socky, Chet Hedden (Surface support), Mary Sue Socky (Surface Support). Took a gravity meter from the Austin Entrance to Swinnerton Ave to try and find Chet Hedden's lost river passage. The route included: One mile of Pohl Avenue, including a 500 foot hands and knees crawl and a steel 20 foot ladder, then climb Brucker Breakdown which leads to Turner Ave. After Turner Avenue, reach the Argo Junction where we take Mather Avenue to Crowbar Junction. Then we go down Swinnerton Ave all the way to the ‘Duck Under’, which is where the Gravity study starts. The Gravity meter actually detected an earthquake about 10:30pm Friday night. Turned out it was a 7.0 quake in Indonesia. We couldn’t take readings for over an hour because of the earthquake.


11/14: Mary Sue Socky visited Mammoth Cave, KY, on a “Historic Tour” with 40 tourists and 2 park guides. She visited the graves of Floyd Collins and Stephen Bishop, two early Mammoth Cave explorers.


11/15: Dave and Mary Sue Socky took the “Gothic Avenue” tour of Mammoth Cave, KY, accessed via the historic entrance to Mammoth Cave. Gothic Ave. is the higher passages of Mammoth Cave, and contains lots of historic graffiti and rock towers/cairns. Gothic Avenue was mostly big dry passage with lots of signatures. It was a tour Mary Sue had wanted to go on this tour for a long time.


11/15: Marian McConnell and Carl Cornett led a Roanoke City Park and Rec trip to Island Ford Cave, VA. This was an all-adult trip. Everyone did very well. Unfortunately, there are beer cans and fresh spray paint in the Island Ford Cave entrance.


11/18/2014 Unnamed Cave. 11 hours, 300 feet surveyed: David Socky, Bob Alderson, Mark Hodge, Phil Lucas, Mark Minton, Yvonne Droms. It was a real cold day - it was around 20 degrees F when we went in. We used the vertical entrance to lower our cave gear and then entered the cave in our big coats and street clothes. We then changed into our caving gear in the 'changing room' inside the entrance were it was warmer. We took video in Aberrant Canyon, then finished the survey at the high lead. There is still one more lead, a bolt climb that needs to be done. The room where we stopped had some really pretty formations. The other team dug into about 200 feet of virgin cave, but the canyon got too narrow. But there is a high lead that drops lots of air. We then dug at two other leads in another part of the cave until 9:30pm. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)


Upcoming Cave Trips:


11/22: tomorrow – Lowmoor Cave cleanup and survey. Dave Socky is leader.


12/13: Video Day at Catawba Murder Hole. You must be a vertically competent BRG caver to rappel to the very bottom of the Murder Hole. Contact Marian McConnell to sign up.


Program: “Slide Show of Various Recent Cave Trips”. Thanks to everyone for sharing their photos! Caves featured were Goudneck Cave, Cagles Chasm, Jeepside Pit, Snail Shell Cave, TN, Missed Opportunity Cave VA, Lowmoor Cave, VA Rapps Cave WV, Mammoth Cave KY.



Some changes since last meeting: Stephanie Petri decided to decline the Chair nomination. Dave Socky declined the Treasurer’s office, but was nominated for Chair positon. Mary Sue Socky was nominated for Treasurer. Marian McConnell (Secretary) and Bob Gulden (Vice Chair) remain nominated. Nominations were closed. The new slate of officers was voted in by acclimation:

                David Socky – Chair

                Bob Gulden – Vice Chair

                Mary Sue Socky – Treasurer

                Marian McConnell - Secretary




TREASURER’S REPORT (submitted by outgoing Treas. Stephanie Petri):

                General - $3,066.68

                Conservation - $180.64

                Equipment - $235.36

                Petty Cash - $110

                Cave Bucks - $0

                Total - $3,592.68


NEWSLETTER – Last newsletter had problems, which were resolved. Thanks for photos & articles! (Hope to use Brian’s “Missed Opportunity” cave map for an upcoming cover).


MEMBERSHIP – Pay your dues! There will be membership letters tonight.



·         Lowmoor resurvey continues.

·         A landowner near Fincastle, VA has contacted BRG about caves on his property.

·         Marian will contact Blue Ridge Vineyards near Eagle Rock about other caves on their property.


SAFETY & TECHNIQUES – BRG will have winter vertical training at River Rock Climbing Gym, select Sunday afternoons, starting mid-Jan 2015. Marian will arrange for date(s).



Dr. Michael Rowland NSS # 42049

Renee Rowland NSS # 42050

Sarah Rowland NSS # 46445

Christopher Rowland NSS # 65573

Laura Rowland NSS # 65574

Paul Thomas Rowland NSS # 65575

All are sponsored by Susan Burr, and seconded by Mary Sue Socky. Their very creative letters were received, and their proposals are tabled until the next BRG meeting (January 2015).




                Christmas Cards for Landowners – great photos of the group with Photo Shopping by David Socky, and Marian was able to get them printed at a discount by  Next year we will see how many BRG members want to pay for a copy (at the discount) and we’ll order enough for copies for members.


                BRG Christmas Party – Will be held at the Socky’s house on December 21 from 1-5p.  Dress caver casual, BYOB and potluck.


                Firehouse for BRG Meetings – Nothing new.


                BRG Survey Gear – Getting used quite a bit and everyone likes it!


                Gretch Boeren and Natural Bridge – Marian will see her at the Virginia Cave Board meeting on November 22.





·         Only $3,000 has been raised to purchase New River Cave so far.  Donations are still being accepted.  Wil Orndorf is trying to keep track of who has donated money via the NSS.  We already sent our donation in from BRG.

·         Salem Rock, Mineral, and Jewelry Show is November 29-30 at the Salem Civic Center.


Adjournment:  8:55p