Cave Rescue, March 16, 1968
Elkhorn Mountain Cave, WV


REPORT

On 16 March seven cavers from the George Washington Student Grotto (NSS) descended the 140 foot entrance pit of Elkhorn, using brake-bars on 7/16" Goldline. At about 4:00 PM, Warren Bogardus (25), George Rabchevsky (30), and Warren Broughton (21) met at the rope to ascend. Bogardus was up in 30 minutes using two Jumar ascenders. Rabchevsky followed, but could not get over the first ledge, about ten feet up. He decided to descend but could release only one ascender from the rope. Finally, he got into a body-rappel, cut the sling to the stuck ascender, and descended.

Broughton then ascended using a Jumar for a seat sling and a prussik knot for his feet. He reached the top in 35 minutes. Meanwhile, Michael Tepping (23) had hurt his knee when he slipped while jumping a stream in the lower cave passages. It became evident to the group that both Rabchevsky and Tepping would have to be pulled to the surface.

Paul Broughton (23) next followed his brother Warren to the surface using a two-point prusik system. About half-way up, the lower polyethylene prusik snapped, but he safely switched to a spare manila set. The time was now 6:30 PM, it was cold and raining, and the three on the surface were soaked and shivering.

Rabchevsky was secured to the rope, along with the end of another 150 foot Goldline to be used to pull the main rope down again. The three on the surface tried to pull Rabchevsky up, but the rope caught in a crevice. Another attempt to pull Leonard LeRoy (20) out (he being much lighter) was also unsuccessful. It was decided to go for help.

Bogardus and Warren Broughton drove to a telephone and caled the Petersburg fire department. By 9:30 PM, about ten volunteers were at the cave. One of those in the cave had attempted to ascend using Bachmann knots, but this had failed. It was decided to simply pull the four to the surface. Warren Broughton rappelled in half way to provide communications and guide the rope. Connie Wong (20) was pulled out, then various packs, followed by Tepping and LeRoy. Broughton was pulled to the surface on the end of the lower rope. By midnight, everybody was out of the cave.


References

NSS Cave Accident Reports, 1968, Page 6-7.

Warren Broughton.


Analysis

(Warren Broughton) Where was the problem? Michael obviously needed to be pulled out. The others lacked adequate training and the cave proved too much for their limited exposure to vertical caving. Because of this, the Grotto will institute training and testing sessions involving various problems which may be encountered in caving. These sessions will be mandatory for those who want to do vertical caves.

The Grotto was fortunate that no one was seriously hurt and the trip can best be considered as a learning experience for each of us.