Cave Rescue, March 10, 1979
Pig Hole, VA


Three cavers, Mark Emerson, Jay Kennedy (18), and Mark Neas, rappelled into the 120 foot pit entrance of Pig Hole Cave, Giles County, Virginia on March 10, at about 10 a.m. An hour's travel took them to the Empire Ledge drop (170 feet). This was rigged and Kennedy rappelled to the bottom, Hess' Hollow. Emerson descended next to a ledge halfway down in order to rig ladders down a bypass drop to the Hollow to "alleviate rub points on the rope." Neas then rappelled into the Hollow. Neas and Kennedy traversed a tight crawlway to the ladder drop just rigged. To reach the ladder drop it was necessary to cross a 15-foot pit. Neas crossed and climbed the ladder preparing to belay Kennedy. Kennedy experienced difficulty with the pit and decided to try to descend the pit and climb up the other side. He found a route leading beneath a large slab of breakdown. At that point his carbide lamp began to go out so he hurried under the slab to where he could hug a smaller rock to reach a foothold. As he hung over the edge hugging the rock, it moved, threatening to trap him beneath the large slab which it supported. He panicked and let go and fell six feet to the bottom of the pit. As he fell he lacerated his wrist and bruised his arm and left knee. He shouted that he was OK. Emerson descended the pit and both climbed out. After a rest, Kennedy was able to exit the cave unassisted.


NSS News, May 1981 (Part 2) V39N5, Page A62-A63.

Jay Kennedy Accident/Incident Report, Pig Hole Cave, Virginia, 1979.


Kennedy reports that he got off easy -- his thick clothing took most of the laceration and he missed a sharp -- edged block of breakdown by only a foot when he landed. He also feels he should have (1) had Emerson wait for him and rig a handline, (2) carried a second light source, and (3) not relied on one hand-hold.

This party was obviously of unequal abilities. The more experienced should look out for others. All too often it is the novice or least experienced caver who gets into trouble.