Cave Rescue, April 14, 1984
Clover Hollow Cave, VA


On April 14, at about 11 a.m. a group of four entered Clover Hollow Cave in Virginia. It had rained the previous night and there was a chance of showers predicted for that day. They observed that the entrance was taking no more water than a previous trip, despite the weather.

They rigged the two short drops near the entrance, negotiated the Grand Canyon and proceeded with a tourist trip tot he Gypsum Room and other areas. Meanwhile, on the surface a storm was dumping two inches of rain.

On the way out, it appeared that there was more water than usual at the Grand Canyon. At the first of the two drops water was gushing over. Larry Ostrander ascended first followed by Sonja Ostrander and Jane Glasser, with Tom Spina holding the rope free of the water as much as possible. They were worried at this point about a low place near the entrance where high water might block their exit. They began thinking of high, dry places to sit out the flood.

A straddle passage between the drops required a belay but the low place proved open and they soon found themselves at the entrance drop where wate cascaded down. Larry Ostrander and Glasser ascended without difficulty and tried to re-rig the rope out of the water. Meanwhile the spray and breeze at the bottom rapidly cooled the remaining two. These broke out garbage bags and a carbide lamp for warmth. It was about 6:45 p.m.

When the rope was finally rigged, Sonja Ostrander made it up but Spina (35) became more chilled while holding the rope for her. After warming up again in the garbage bag, Spina tried an ascent but was weak and felt he couldn't make it. He retreated and called for help.

The others passed down a pack with hot coffee, sugar, a space blanket, and a bottle of raisins and peanuts. Meanwhile they had called for assistance. At 9 p.m. a rescuer reached Spina and determined that all was well. He was out by 10 p.m.


NSS News, November 1985 (Part 2) V43N11, Page 359.

Tom Spina "April Showers" SPLASH (Tidewater Grotto) 4:4 April 1984 2 pp.

Tom Spina NSS Accident Report Form undated.


The group was well prepared for such an emergency and Spina showed good sense in not attempting the final waterfall "do-or-die" fashion. One feels justified in criticizing the entering of a stream cave just after a rain with more rain expected.