Cave Rescue, August 13, 1987
Bowden Cave, WV


REPORT

At 11 a.m. on Thursday, August 13, a group of three people entered Bowden Cave, Randolph County, West Virginia, for a cross-over trip from the Main Entrance to the Third Entrance. These were Doug, Brian, and Steve, experienced rock climbers with almost no caving experience -- the latter two had been in Bowden main trunk passage once before. A camper at Seneca Rocks had told them of the cross-over trip -- they thus knew the route only through vague, second-hand description. They had a flashlight each and, though they had them, brought no extra batteries into the cave.

Past the Pendant Room, they encountered the Back Section Maze where they had to follow the main stream to a passage that goes to the Third Entrance. Unfortunately, the cave was experiencing very low water conditions and the stream had sunk into its bed.

They wandered through the low crawls for three hours until their lights began growing dim. They decided to leave Doug there while the other two went out for fresh batteries. Brian and Steve found their way out of the maze and back into the Main Trunk.

At 2 p.m. they encountered Greg and John Springer, experienced cavers, in the Main Trunk. Brian and Steve exited and proceeded around to Bickle Hollow to the Third Entrance, where they again encountered the Springers.

At 4 p.m. it was decided to notify the local rescue squad while Greg Springer and Brian returned to the maze with extra lights and dry clothes to search. They gradually retraced the path of Brian and Steve's exit and finally encountered Doug, though at first voice-contact it was difficult to locate him due to echoes. He was in a low crawl, very wet, wearing jeans and a tee-shirt. The three exited the Main Entrance at 7:15 p.m. The Elkins Volunteer Fire Department rescue squad was about to enter.


References

NSS News, December 1988 (Part 2) V46N12, Page 485.

Greg Springer Accident Report December 23, 1987, 5 pages.


Analysis

Surely this is "spelunking" at its finest. Doug escaped hypothermia by being in very good physical condition and moving around while lost. At the same time, the latter prevented his being found by his companions when they encountered the Third Entrance.

A good question is why Doug was left in the first place. Apparently the idea was to finish the cross-over trip by fetching the extra batteries.