Monthly Meeting February 21, 2020

Jersey Lily’s at 7p; Roanoke, VA



Susan Burr, Chair

David Socky, Vice Chair

Marian McConnell, Secretary

Trish Geiger, Treasurer

Lyn Ott

Jen Suggs

Carl Cornett

Jeff Huffman

Nick Schmalenberger

Jacob Whitlock*

Joseph Caldwell

Brandon Phipps*



a.    1/18/2020 - Porter’s Cave – Grotto Trip - Leader: Doug Feller, Susan Burr, Lauren Appel, Jeff Huffman. Bill Walker, Jason Delafield. We went in with the intention of finding the passage in the area past the keyhole & the natural bridge back there & do a drop down into a passage prior to getting to the keyhole. We have never done this before. We explored all around in the area back there. We never actually found the passage we were looking for so we headed back out through the keyhole & Doug decided we would go up the drop & then do the passage the opposite direction. We were pretty sure we knew where the drop down was. Doug managed to get up it first with no real issues. I went next...well I had issues! It is basically straight up & the hand & foot holds were small & minimal. Luckily for me Jason came up & offered assistance by helping keep my foot in position or helping move it to the next spot. Eventually Doug dropped a hand line as I got close to the top. It was very helpful to make it the last bit. The others used the hand line, which made the climb easier. We continued on but it we didn't pop out where we expected. Guess one day we will find the passage. Doing this just meant we had to do the keyhole one more time. After we got through the keyhole again, we continued to do the normal “tourist route.”


b.   1/18: Butler Cave, VA. Participants included David Socky, Mark Minton, and Yvonne Droms. This was the dig I'd been to before with Mark in Lower Complaint on July 7, 2019. The one that required only one dig session to remove a rock which was blocking the way. Eight dig sessions later, we still needed just one more session to fit through, but we had run out of battery power. Damn. During the digging, Vonny collected a small white bug for the biologists to identify. There was not much room where we were digging, plus there was a large rock on the upslope which was in danger of falling and blocking our way out and/or pinning someone’s leg. It was possible to just maneuver around it. While digging, the large unstable rock eventually fell down, blocking our way out. However, it wasn't so large that we couldn't move it out of the way, but it was too big and thick to hammer into pieces. Mark took care of it with a dig session. I mucked the pieces out. But then the drill battery ran out of juice, so we had to call it a day. After one final look, it was determined that the lead still looks real good and is definitely worth returning.


c.    1/22: Butler Cave, VA. Participants included David Socky, Bill Walker, Mark Hodge, and Amos Mincin. We Did some infrastructure work for the Butler Air Dig by taking in a new sled and an additional square bucket. Mark put in an extra stabilizing bolt on the front rope crank. We went to the dig face and found a big pile of dirt and clay on the floor that hadn’t been removed. So, we added another track, and using the new sled, we removed the pile of dirt to the dump spot at the start of the Air Dig. It took about 8 buckets and an hour or so of work.  Mark then took us on a tour of the Crystal Gallery, where we took a bunch of photos. It was a nice 5-hour cave trip.


d.   1/25: McClungs Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Chris Coates, Brian Young, Adam Lake. Coleman McHose, Ben Shaftler, and Edgar Villarreal also went in, but didn't get any survey done because their DistoX2 was out of calibration (front and back sights didn't agree with the same instrument). They did check the rigging for the pit into Big Muddy Canyon. There was a boulder available for a natural rig point. About a 70-foot rope would be needed to rig the drop. We went in the Lightner entrance, where Chris permanently rigged the entrance drop (no rope at the surface, though). We went in about 10:30am and made our way directly to the end of our last survey of 1/11/2020 (the WFD survey). It took about 3 hours. I sketched, Brian Young did cross sections, Chris was point and back sights, and Adam Lake was front sights. The upper level passage we were in before dropped down into a stream passage at the start of our survey. We went upstream. Low, but wide for a long way. Some walking, some crawling, and a muddy floor. The passage headed north-north-east but after a long way, got smaller, and doubled back, heading south and sometimes even south west. We finally stopped at about 8:30pm when the passage got even smaller and headed back north east. We figured we were only about 400 feet from the Meat Grinder. We headed out a few minutes past 9pm. The trip out was a lot faster than the way in. I was out the entrance just a little past 11:30pm. It was a good 13-hour trip with 1528 feet in the book. We met up with the other group at the short climb where we leave our vertical stuff. Cole was the last one and going up the rope as we arrived. Instead of surveying, they did some reconn work, especially checking for what kind of rigging would be necessary to get down in the Little Muddy and Big Muddy passages up in the north end of the cave. Everyone was pretty quick in climbing the ropes - there was really no waiting around. It was just a little above freezing but no rain. I stayed at the field station that night. Sunday morning, I did a little drive over to the BCSS Homestead and picked up my cook kit. Hoped the gate and hiked up to the Homestead. It was cold, but no rain. Nice little walk.


e.    2/1: Windy Mouth, WV. Participants included David Socky, Brian Sakofsky, and Dave Smallwood for team one. Nick Socky, Nikki Fox, and Silas Springer for team two. We spent Friday night at WVACS. On Saturday morning, we drove to the cave and entered at about 12:30pm and made our way straight to the Windy Mouth Camp. We dropped off our extra camp gear and then headed to our survey for the day. The goal was to kill leads in JD and JC surveys, about an hour or so from camp. It was a section of the cave I had never been to before. An interesting mix of stream passage and dry upper levels. Some walking, some crawling, and some stemming. Certainly not as hard as getting into the upper levels. We got to the JC survey and split up. Brian, Dave, and I went to JCC1 and redid the data for JCC1 to 14. Not a bad side lead. Mostly walking with some water. At JCC14 I started sketching. The passage got smaller and narrower and we got into the water, but mostly it could be avoided. But by JCC22 we found a couple of rimstone pools. The second rimstone pool dropped down into deep water. It was a seven-foot drop, with the water being 3.5 to 4 feet deep. Dave Smallwood took the hit and was the only one to get wet, going around a corner and finding a sump. We put two shots into the sump. We made our way back toward our other leads. At JC51 we found a way to the lower level stream passage that hadn't been surveyed. We had passage going both upstream and downstream. We went downstream first, eventually getting into water with low head room. But before we had to crawl in the water, there was a dry bypass to the right. After a few stations we got back to the water, after which the passage turned into a belly crawl in water. No one wanted to continue. We concluded that this was a wetsuit lead, so we turned around and went upstream. High canyon passage with deep water below. Wider passage above with ledges allowed us to stay high and out of the water. But soon the ledges disappeared, and the canyon got narrower. It was also 11pm and we had agreed we would meet back at camp at midnight. It was time to stop the survey and head back to camp. We would be late, but not too bad. It did take about an hour to get back, arriving at 12:30am. The other team had gotten back just 15 minutes before us. We had dinner, talked and told stories and finally crawled into sleeping bags about 2am. We got up at 9am, had coffee and breakfast, and slowly got ready to head out. We started about 10:30am. Nick and Silas ran ahead and surveyed an easy lead which got an additional 70 feet, giving us over 1000 feet for the weekend. Windy Mouth is now 15.47 miles long. We all got out of the cave at 12:45pm. It was close enough to call it a 25-hour camp trip!


f.     2/8: McClungs Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Carl Amundson, Nikki Fox, and Nick Schmalenberger. It was a WVACS weekend. We entered Lightner entrance at 11am and made our way to the end of our last survey without any issues. It took 3 hours. The water levels where about the same as two weeks ago. The survey continued small and then got smaller. One spot in the tube had a large piece of breakdown across the whole passage. There was just barely enough room for me to fit through. I figure it was just a little over 9 inches because I think I bruised by sternum. The passage continued as a small tube, but eventually it got better. Lots of crawling. We found the section of mud flowers and mud cities which I remember from when Rick Shortt, Carl Cornett, and I did it 11 years ago. After a while, we actually reached walking canyon passage - about 3 to 5 feet wide and 7 to 8 feet high. Very nice, but still everything had a thin coating of mud. Nikki wanted to turn around at 7 pm but agreed to continue until we got 30 stations. We stopped at 30 stations, but the canyon continued as walking passage. We ran ahead a little until we came to an intersection and an old survey station, 2569. We went to the right, but it got small and canyony, with a number of small gnarly spots to squeeze through. Nikki went ahead a little but turned around at a crawl which kept going. We didn't find the tie-in but figured we were close. We headed out around 8pm after a little snack. It was a long trip out, but we eventually got out at around 12:15am. It had snowed lightly and was 29 degrees F. It was a good trip in which we got 714 feet of survey in 12.5 hours.


g.    2/15: Cave Hollow Arbogast, WV. Participants included David Socky, Wayne Perkins, and Brian Masney. Because of the new snow on the Forest Service Road, we only drove halfway up the mountain, parking at the turnoff for the river campground and then hiked up the steep part of the Forest Road. We entered the cave about 11:20am and proceeded directly to the Serpentine Way passage. Our goal was to survey the bypass to the main Serpentine Way that starts at E30 and comes out in the Harry Sower Room. We did see some tricolored bats near the start of our survey. We were unsuccessful in doing the full bypass because there were tight spots at both ends that none of us could even come close to fitting through. By the time we had surveyed both ends of the bypass, it was 5:30 pm, too late to start anything new. Our exit was uneventful, and we were out of the cave by 6:30 pm. We surveyed a total of 443 feet on a seven-hour trip.


h.   2/18: Windy Mouth, WV. Participants included David Socky, Nick Socky, and Samantha Joy as team 1. Joe and Carol Zokaites, and Bill Koerschner as team 2. Bill, Joe, and Carol went to pick up leads in the Dusty lower levels. We surveyed a small side lead in the main passage that got us almost 100 feet. We then headed to 2nd Canyon and surveyed upper levels for over 400 feet. We finished that off and then headed to the E survey passage closer to the entrance. We surveyed close to 100 feet downstream in the stream passage below the main canyon. We then headed out to meet the other team at 7pm. We met up with them just before the entrance crawl. We really lucked out that it didn't rain either on the trip in or the trip out.


i.     (date?) Put Back Nugget Cave in Wythe County, VA – Brandon and friends are checking out old caves. Didn’t go past the sump; wore wetsuits and less than 2” clearance. Brandon & his friends named the cave Put Back Nugget because of the story the owner told him. The owner now wasn't the one who put the nugget back. It may have been a previous owner back in the day.


j.     (dates?) Key Cave, Glade Cave (twice), and Hamilton Cave, VA by Jacob Whitlock with the Madison University Student Grotto.


k.   2/1 – Crossroads Cave in Bath County, VA - Bill Walker, Lauren Appel, and Jeff Huffman entered the cave around 10:45 a.m. and exited the cave around 5:15 p.m.  Our intentions were to check and excavate a blowing air lead that Bill had remembered from a previous trip, as well as, possible leads on a map.  We checked out the blowing air lead to the left of the Front Room.  We never found the area that Bill remembered from 10 years ago. Next, we proceeded through Lost and Found and stopped right before The Sewer.  Lauren and Bill checked out a couple of leads that were indicated on the map.  This area contained passage way that was not surveyed on the map.  We came across a group from VCU in this area that were making their way back to the entrance.  Next, we made our way to the Campsite and waited right before the Floorless Canyon.  We waited while a group of around 8 cavers from the Charlottesville Grotto made their way down from the Floorless Canyon area. We then stemmed across the canyon until we could walk.  Two dead bats were encountered in these areas.  We looked around the area to the left after the canyon.  However, we decided to go check out an area on the right side of the canyon at the stream.  On the map there was a lead that had "goes" written beside it.  Bill climbed up the muddy embankment and indicated that it would need digging.  At this point, we decided to leave since we had been in the cave around six hours and Jeff had forgotten to give his wife a later than usual call back time.  We exited the cave and drove around looking at the terrain

l.     Lyn Ott and about 120 other cavers attended the VPI Banquet in Christiansburg at the Celtic Hall.


m.  Tomorrow’s BRG trip: February 22: BRG Cave Trip to Haynes Cave, WV, led by Doug Feller, coordinated by Susan Burr.  This is a horizontal trip; beginner level, to a historic Saltpeter Cave owned and managed by WVCC. Meet at HROM at 8:30a.


n.   March BRG Trip – TBA.


o.    Catawba Murder Hole Cave, VA - Rappelling day in the daylight cave – Sunday April 26th from 9a-5p. Will rig 2 ropes (talus slope and big drop). Bring vertical gear if you have it; if not, Dano and Marian will have some available. May have “Cloud Bobby” (friend of Marian’s) come out and do drone footage. Possibly have dinner afterwards at the Homeplace.




a.    Treasurer’s Report: (Trish Geiger)

Cave Bucks                         31.64

Conservation                       91.01

Equipment                       133.87

General                          3,192.88

TOTAL                          $3,449.40


b.   Committees:

1)   Newsletter – Carbide Dump – vote for your 5 favorite covers.  Also, we submitted our 2019 IO Report to the NSS.

2)   Membership – pick up your packet at the meeting. Others will be mailed.

3)   ROCKS – no report (Dave had to leave early.)

4)   Safety & Techniques – Murder Hole daylight cave rappelling day April 26th.


c.    Membership Proposals:

1)   Jason Delafield’s membership request from last month – voted in unanimously.

2)   Brandon Phipps submitted his request; Susan and MarySue both agreed to sponsor him. Very comprehensive letter! Will be voted on at the next month’s meeting.


d.   Old Business:

1)   2020 Donations – draft list will be included in the next Carbide Dump.

·         MAKC - $25

·         NCRC – Eastern Region - $25

·         Virginia Cave Board - $50

·         WVCC 0 $50

·         ACCA - $25

Total of $175.

Mary Sue will check into the purchase of Cyclops Cave in Russell County by the SECC for $150,000. Deadline is May 1st. We need more info to decide if we want to contribute.

We also gave $75 to CaveSim in May 2019; do we want to donate again this year?


e.    New Business:

1)   2020 BRG Rescue Roster - Randy Michael wishes to step down as Rescue Contact.  He has given BRG a year to find his replacement. Ideally, BRG should have 5 contact people on the list. A contact person:

·         Needs to know the BRG cavers, and can make decisions on who to “call”, and can quickly and discretely contact those cavers who can respond to a rescue.

·         Does not necessarily need to be a responder; a less active caver can help the grotto by coordinating from a phone.

·         Knows how to work with BCRG, NCRC, and local rescue agencies.

·         Knows how to work with media inquiries.

2)   The Virginia Cave Board met (Marian is a member) February 1st at the Vinton Public Library at 11a. Rep from VDOT who is a geologist talked about Natural Bridge; it will definitely be re-routed since the hollow space under the road is bigger than they thought.

3)   Access to caves on DGIF lands are closed …“All caves on Department-owned lands are closed to recreational caving to reduce disturbance to roosting bats and the spread of white-nose syndrome, a disease significantly impacting bat populations. Caves are open for scientific and educational purposes … research and educational trips should apply for a Special Use Authorization.” Some DGIF caves are: Highland Co. VA:  Aqua Cave, Marshall Cave, Hevener’s # 3, Mustoe Ulcer Cave, Parsonage Cave. These Caves are CLOSED to sport caving. Some of these caves are open in the summer months WITH a valid WRITTEN PERMIT from DGIF. For a list of closed caves, see

4)   Upcoming outreach events with Murder Hole cave movie showing and info about cave safety and conservation:

·         March 31st – Cave Spring Place (where Al Stewart lives now) from 3-4p

·         April 9th – Rock & Mineral Club at O. Winston Link Museum 7-8p

·         April 14th – The Glebe Retirement Home in Daleville from 3-4p

·         April 30th – The Glebe field trip to see Murder Hole 2:30-4:00p


3.   PROGRAM:  Dave Socky’s 13-minute video of the historic sump dive in McClung’s Cave that created the 41-mile Great Savannah Cave System.



·         March 13-15 and 20-22, 2020 - NCRC Rescue Training - at Blacksburg, VA. Eastern Regional Level 1 and 2, Modular Level 1 and 2 Rescue Training. Hosted by BCRG.

·         May 1 - 3, 2020 - Spring MAR/VAR - at Grand Caverns, Grottoes, VA. Hosted by 7 Valleys Grotto and Charlottesville Grotto.

·         May 16 – Cricket Maze Cave, Martinsburg, WV, 4-hour drive, open house 12-6p

·         July 27 - 31, 2020 - 2020 NSS Convention - at Elkins, West Virginia