Meeting Minutes

January 18, 2019


Susan Burr – Chair

David Socky – Vice Chair

Trish Geiger – Treasurer

Marian McConnell – Secretary

Bob Gulden

Dusty Gulden

Nicole Gulden

Odin Gulden

Brandon Phibbs*

Joseph Caldwell

Karen Kastning

Lauren Appel

Doug Feller

Lynn Ott

Hillary Huffman*

Jeff Huffman

Carl Cornett

Jen Suggs*

Dominique Dziadowicz*

Jason Delafield*




Introductions and Trip Reports:


·         This month’s trip – Saturday 1/19/19 to Tawney’s Cave, VA. Susan Burr is leader. Meet at HROM at 9am.  Probably underground 3-4 hours and have dinner somewhere afterwards.

·         February trip – TBA. The VPI Banquet is February 16th which would be the normal trip day. Susan will come up with a trip and email everyone.

·         Susan reported on the BRG trip to Scott Hollow on 11/17/18. Doug Feller was the leader. On the trip were Susan Burr, Jeff Huffman, Bill Walker, Lauren Appel, Nick Schmalenberger. Went down to Mystic River, then downstream to sump. Went up scary extension ladder. Up there explored around; made it to another sump and then returned.

·         1/12/19 - Susan took Braven (age 5-1/2) and his dad Dustin to Dixie Caverns. 

·         1/2/19 – Mary Sue gave a talk to 7 seniors at Grace Methodist Church about caving. Her slide projector broke down but they had a DVD player to show “Discovery of Grand Caverns” and they loved it.

·         1/12/19 – Mary Sue, Jen Suggs, and Trish went to Island Ford and had a great time. It was Jen’s first wild cave trip.

·         1/1/19 – Jeff Huffman and 17 people (including 3 little kids) went to Crossroads Cave. It was like herding cats but they finally got out ok.

·         11/17/2018: Culverson Creek, WV. Participants included David Socky, Nick Socky, Eric Pelkey, and Hope Brooks. We were going to do the Chocolate Drop into Phil Lucas's big lead, but there was a raging river flowing down the main Culverson stream passage. The water was at least 7 feet deep. No question about aborting the trip. So we went back into the Wildcat section of the cave and went to check out the bolt climb that Nick had started on the left before you get to Dread Pool. We thought about going back out to get bolting gear, but everyone was depressed about the aborted trip, so we just went and looked at J Station Lake (Dread Pool), which was not totally siphoned. We had decided to go back to the field station and give it a good clean up in preparation for the Christmas Party. So, we did - spent all day cleaning, plus went to dinner at the Mexican Restaurant in Lewisburg. (Also, Nikki, Chris, and David Smallwood where at the field station Friday night and went to Maxwelton/Sweetwater on Saturday. The plan was to move camp from Ghost Camp to the Retreat in the new upper levels up Covert Creek. They planned on coming out the 'usual time' on Sunday.      

·         11/18/2018: Lowmoor Cave, VA. Participants included David Socky, Nick Socky, Eric Pelkey, and Hope Brooks. We went up towards the Capital Room area to get up the bolt climb that Jon Lillestolen had left way back in March 2015. It was the last section that needed to be done. Turned out both Nick and Eric free climbed up the canyon, but Nick set two bolts and we rigged a rope, which Hope and I climbed. The old survey team had obviously gotten up because the hand sketch showed details that could only be shown if one had been there. So we surveyed, but only a little over 114 feet. There was enough cave that another trip would be necessary. Everyone was anxious to get back so we packed it up and headed out. We did take a quick tour to the Ship Room. We were out of the cave by midafternoon for a pleasant 3 hour trip.         

·         11/24/2018: Lowmoor Cave, VA. Participants included Bob Alderson and David Socky. Bob sketched. We finished up the section of cave above the bolt climb that we had left on Sunday. We surveyed just about everything, expect one little section. We managed to survey a total of 465 feet. There were some really nice formations in this area, of which I took a number of photos. We called the one section ‘The Iron City Terminus” because of the obvious iron deposits. See the December 2018 Carbide Dump for the article.    

·         12/1/2018: Cave Hollow Arbogast, WV.  Participants included David Socky, Jason Delafield, and Wayne Perkins for Team 1 and Dave West and Karen Willmes for Team 2.  Dave and Karen surveyed around 500 feet in the main Cave Hollow – Arbogast stream passage. We surveyed some in the stream passage, but then got side tracked by upper level narrow, but dry, canyons which went for a long ways. These upper level canyons had not been surveyed before, but they were not virgin. The main canyon overlay the stream passage and was moving lots of air. We didn’t reach the end, but knew that it tied back into the stream passage because we could hear the water up ahead. It was a good 10 hour trip in which we got close to 1000 feet of survey done.       

·         12/8/2018: Maxwelton Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Greg Springer, Silas Springer, and Lydia Albright (Greg's graduate student). Lydia had never been in a cave before (except for some mines), but she did very well on the trip. We entered the cave about 11am and made our way to the Latte Room without incident, although we did do a lot of explaining and spotting for Lydia. Silas had a hard time restraining himself from bouncing ahead. We turned left at the Latte Room and went past H Canyon. A few hundred feet later we reached the Classic Canyon passage, which cuts across the old Cove Creek trunk at 90 degrees, but is actually below the trunk by about 15 to 20 feet. We went upstream and soon reached the end of Greg's previous CBA survey. Greg sketched, Silas did point, I did back sights, and Lydia picked up front sights very quickly. She had a steady hand! It was a nice canyon, but got restricted in width at the bottom in a number of places, forcing one to either crawl in the water or climb up and over the narrow channel. The walls were somewhat muddy, making them slick for climbing. In several places we could see high leads, but climbing them on the way out proved them to be just alcoves. After an hour or so we reached a point where we had to climb up to the upper section of the canyon because it was just too narrow below. But the climb up was a little tricky and wide. We had to help and spot Lydia up, but she made it. However, to continue on, Silas did a funky climb/stem and had to do a sketchy move where the canyon widened out. There was no place to spot Lydia and a fall to the stream below would not have been good. Since it was getting late in the afternoon already, we decided to stop at this point. The canyon kept going, so we will definitely be back - with webbing this time. We went back to the point where Classic Canyon cut across the trunk and finished the re-survey of the ABC survey. We ended up surveying 262 feet with 21 shots. Maxwelton is now 20.12 miles long! It was 4pm by time we headed out. We got out at 5:20pm making for a nice 6.5 hour trip and getting us back to the field station in time for the start of the XMAS party. The XMAS party was great - good food, steak and salmon, and a great crowd.    

·         12/13/2018: Lowmoor Cave, VA. Participants included David Socky, Dave Collings, and Bob Alderson. We parked in the mine because of the rain. We first went into the cave and did the dig by the Brian Williams lead near the farthest connection to the mine. The dig led to one small room which didn't do anything, but we did survey 2 shots for 22 feet. We then went back to the mine and finished all the mine passage near the second truck entrance. This pretty much completes the entire mine except the Sofa Section and any other little places we find further up the valley. We netted a total of 1398 feet for a 6 hour day.         

·         12/15/2018: Lowmoor Cave, VA. Participants included David Socky, Bob Alderson, Joe Zokaites, and Bill Koerschner. Again, it rained, so we parked in the mine. We surveyed 736 feet of unknown (but not virgin) cave accessed from the Lowmoor mine. There was a lot more cave there than we expected. We left 3 good leads because of hibernating bats. We saw around 150 bats (most likely Little Browns), with two large clusters. There were also some Tri-Colored and Big Brown bats. It was a good 6.5 hour trip.

·         12/18/2018: Maxwelton Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Greg Springer, and Silas Springer. The cave trip today was the continuation of ‘Classic Canyon' in Maxwelton Sink Cave. We surveyed 20 stations in this twisty, narrow canyon until it got too narrow. Silas had no problems, but Greg and I just couldn't fit. We decided to leave the continuation of this virgin lead to a 'small person' survey. Actually, the passage we did survey was pretty cool, with lots of really nice formations, including squirrely helectites. It was a fun 6.5 hour trip with a whole 200 feet of survey added to Maxwelton. See the article in this issue of the Carbide Dump for a fun description of this and other trips.

·         1/4/2019:  Lowmoor Cave, VA. Participants included David Socky, Rick Reynolds, Joe and Carol Zokaites. Went it to the ETE survey to check on and count the bats in this section of mine-cave. We found Big Browns, Little Browns, Tri-Colored, and Eastern small -footed (Myotis leibii) bats, and possibly a cluster of Indiana Bats. There is still several hundred or more feet of passage that needs surveying, but it will have to wait tell the spring.

·         1/5/2019: Boarhole Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Chris Coates, and Nikki Fox. The dive trip into McClungs was cancelled due to the rain, so Chris Coates, Nikki Fox, and I went into Boarhole Cave, WV where Chris did a bolt climb into an intriguing lead. It took 8 bolts, but unfortunately it didn't go. No survey this day. We spent the rest of the day poking around in the K survey looking for the way to the Portal. We made it through the breakdown route, but gave up when we found big cave at multiple levels, with leads going off every which way. We gave up when we realized we didn’t know where the Boarhole passage connected into the Portal on the map, plus we didn’t have a compass with us! We got out just before dark for a fun 8.5 hour trip.

·         1/11/2019: Culverson Creek Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Nick Socky, and Aaron Clair. We went to the Wildcat entrance and into the Wildcat passage and did the bolt climb on the left, just past the high lead canyon passage (which is on the right). Nick did the bolting and Aaron belayed. I took pictures and cut steps in the mud slope up from the stream. Nick put in 8 bolts and found that the lead didn't go. There was a tight slot at the top which is really a dig, but not worth the effort it would take. It was a short 5 hour trip.       

·         1/12/2019: Brants Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Greg Springer, and Silas Springer. Greg was interested in this cave because it is in the vicinity of the downstream sump of Sweetwater (actually to the east – north east of the sump). The cave is supposed to be several thousand feet with a flowstone constriction with air at the end. Kyle Mills and Jeb Gillilan had explored it a few years ago and dug open a tight spot and put in a cable ladder. But the tight spot was real awkward because you had to go in headfirst over a 20 foot pit. According to Balfour, it was ‘awkward at best’. The entrance is a 25 foot deep pit which leads to a large room/passage. There are three side leads off the main passage. We entered in the snow and first surveyed one of the short side passages. We then headed down the main passage towards the tight constriction and ladder climb. There were lots of very nice massive flowstone formations. Just before the tight spot, the flowstone almost closed off the wide canyon passage, leaving a tight awkward crawl. On the way were a number of awkward climbs, both up and down. We surveyed just over 500 feet when we reached the constriction. Greg had a big drill, three batteries, and a bunch of straws from Carroll Bassett, plus his big heavy weight to hold the straw in place. Greg’s pack must have weighed close to 45 pounds – it was really heavy. Anyway, the constriction was at the top of a steep flowstone slope, up about 15 feet. Greg set off 8 straws and opened up the constriction enough that it was possible to turn around and go in the hole feet first, getting on the ladder with ease. The straws worked really well, throwing rocks past our hiding area 25 feet away. I went through the tight spot and down the 20 foot ladder. It was easier than I thought it would be. At the bottom was another flowstone wall with some webbing hanging down. The webbing had loops for handholds, so it was fairly easy to climb up. It would have been difficult without the webbing. At the top, it was an easy climb down the other side. Then there was a phreatic canyon sloping steeply downward. There were high rimstone dams in the way, which were really cool. I went over one and then could see 3 or 4 more downstream. There was no water in them. The passage was called the High Hurdle Passage. I turned around and went back, not wanting to scoop too much. Silas and I carried Greg’s pack for him since he was sketching and we carried it out since he had a headache. I pulled his pack out the pit on my harness. We got out around 9pm to several inches of snow on the ground. It was a good 10 hour trip with about 500 of survey in the book.

·         1/16/2019: Helectite Cave, VA. Participants included David Socky, Phil Lucas, Mark Hodge, and Amos Mincin. We went straight to the Supersweet dig in order to lay in more rail track sections so the dig can continue. It was a good 7 hour trip with all track laid except the last 20 feet or so. The rail cart works great - Phil even took a ride on it to get back out of Blister Crawl. The “B” team (Phil and Dave) had the task of feeding rail sections to the “A” team (Mark and Amos) who installed the sections after preparing the surface. Happily we finished the area with large puddles and the balance will be dry. Mark Hodge endured a soaking when Amos “drained the swamp”! From Mark “Amos had just started draining the big pool of water in my direction when I splattered my face and eyes with mud. I was still trying to get the mud out of my eyes when Amos said "Watch out, here comes the water!" Only I couldn't open my eyes yet, and then all of a sudden my whole body gets drenched with cold water. I really don't mind draining the swamp, just NOT in my direction”.  Now all that is left is an easy 4 hour trip to install the remaining 5 sections of track and knock off some ledges in the canyon that leads out of the Blister Crawl. The best part is that it is nice and dry and you can almost stand up. In the dig, we are about 15 feet into the canyon. There it makes a left turn into a canyon 1.5 feet wide and 12 feet high, with a couple of obstructions that need to be removed. We can see 15 feet down the canyon after the left turn.


Business Meeting:


Treasurer’s Report – Trish Geiger:

$31.64                  Cave Bucks

$110.64                Conservation Fund

$185.41                Equipment Fund

$3128.90              General Fund

$3456.59              TOTAL FUNDS



·         Newsletter – Carbide Dump – Great issue this month. Next month we will vote for our 5 favorite covers in 2018 for the Graphics Salon at Convention. Mary Sue is cleaning up the exchanges; and deleting Grottos who do not send us a newsletter in exchange for a copy of ours. Please continue to submit pictures, articles, etc.

·         Membership – Please be sure to pay your dues for 2019 if you have not already; it’s $10/person or $15/family.  We currently have 37 members/subscribers.

·         ROCKS – Last year we did cave exploration (inventory) in Low Moor.

·         Safety & Techniques – Dano is recuperating from surgery for a blocked carotid artery. May schedule some training at River Rock Climbing Gym during these winter months.


Membership Proposals:  None


Old Business: 

·         Auction of CAVESIM shirt, NSS books, etc. Dave will set this up to do on-line with a minimum bid of $2/item and make sure all are at final bid before the February BRG meeting on February 15th.

·         Updating IO (Internal Organization) and Contact information for NSS – Mary Sue got this completed at the meeting.  Blue Ridge Grotto is the 180 Grotto. Mary Sue (not Al Stewart) is our primary point of contact; Bob Gulden volunteered to be the secondary. 

New Business:

·         BRG Cave Trip Courtesy – We normally carpool to save gas and keep down amount of parking space; riders should contribute to the driver based upon the distance of the ride; normally from $5-$10 person depending upon how far away the cave is. Also, we normally eat somewhere after the trip, so if you don’t want to join the group for dinner, you will need to drive your own car or make other arrangements.

·         NSS Anti-Harassment Policy – All Grottos have to adopt this, so we will include a reference to the policy in our By Laws.

·         Updating BRG By Laws – A workgroup made up of Dave Socky, Mary Sue, Susan, and Lynn will go through the By Laws and submit a draft to the group for review and approval.

·         Marian is met today with Christy Brooks, Director of Operations of the Science Museum of Western Virginia (Center in the Square in Roanoke) about offering a 1-day event in April to celebrate Virginia Cave Week.  Will likely include free brochures about caves, bats, sinkholes; Q&A and show and tell of cave gear, showing Murder Hole Cave movie and offering movies and books for sale, etc. Will likely be a Saturday (not April 27) and will need BRG volunteers. Marian will keep everyone posted on a date and logistics.

·         Marian shared info about Sam and Sharon Dunaway, owners of Morefield Mine in Amelia, VA.  Many BRG members have been there to collect gems (amazonite, topaz, quartz, garnet, etc.) and some of us got to go down into the mine. The Dunaways are trying to retire and are no longer opening the mine to the public. 



·         The Virginia Cave Board will meet at 11a on Saturday, January 26 at the Nature Conservancy in Charlottesville, VA on 652 Jefferson Peter Parkway Suite 190. Marian is attending; see her if you want to ride along. The public is invited.

·         NSS is trying to get new members; so new members will get a copy of the “Caving Basics” book for joining.


Program:  “No Cave for Old Men” 2008 project caving in Shovel Eater Cave, WV.




2019 BRG Caver Calendar:


Jan 26 – Virginia Cave Board Meeting in Charlottesville at 11a, Nature Conservancy

Feb 15, 2019:  6:30p, Jersey Lily’s Roadhouse Salem, VA

Mar 15, 2019:  6:30p, Jersey Lily’s Roadhouse Salem, VA

Apr 6-7, 2019: Spring Restoration Weekend, Grand Caverns.  Contact Meredith Weberg.

Apr 21-27, 2019: Virginia Cave Week

Apr 26-28, 2019 – Spring VAR, Camp Powhatan BSA Camp, Dublin, VA. Hosted by James River Grotto

May 11-18, 2019 – NCRC Weeklong Cordon, IN 

June 17-21, 2019:  NSS Convention in Cookeville, TN

Oct 7-11, 2019:  NCKMS meeting in Bristol, VA

Nov 3, 2019: 11:30a, VSS Meeting, Natural Bridge State Park, VA