Cave Rescue, October 19, 1985
WV's Cave, WV


On October 19 three cavers were in W. V.'s Cave in West Virginia. They were in a large room about 350 feet below and 2,000 feet horizontally from the entrance, to check a lead at the upper end of the room where water cascades into breakdown. The room is entered via an ascent up a steep, hard, slick mud slope where footholds had been cut several years earlier.

The lead didn't go so they headed back. Mike Dyas (42) was the first gong down the mud slope, "in a partially sitting position, feeling for the footsteps and intending to slowly 'crab walk' down." Just after starting, however, he lost his footing and slid rapidly down, feet first, for 100 feet. At that point the slope becomes nearly vertical, dropping a final twenty feet into a room, and Dyas was able to stop by hitting a bulge in the wall that formed the ceiling over the mud slope. He absorbed most of the force with his legs but he rebounded to the right, catching himself on the right wall with that hand, injuring his wrist.

His companions helped him down and one, a paramedic, examined him and believed the wrist to be dislocated. It was bourd with strips of nylon torn from a pagk. Since Dyas was not in shockand otherwise uninjured, they decided to proceed out

The way out involved "a dozen or so dmarginally free-climbable, not-quitevertical pitches, followed by a series of tight breakdown squeezes near the surface." Dyas had no use of this right arm but was able to get out under his own power with occasional boosts from his companions and belays or -Texas ascent up the vertical places. They got out three to four hours after the accident. The wrist was found to have multiple fractures requiring a full arm cast for several weeks.


Mike Dyes "W. V.'s Cave, West Virginia" unpublished report, undated, 1 p.


The group was fortunate to have an extra rope to use for belay on the way out. The cave stream was nearly dry so they could follow it out - a more direct route than otherwise. Dyas was lucky to have stopped his fall before the bottom, possibly avoiding worse injury.

Dyas attributes the slip to "simple carelessness and bad luck" rather than to fatigue orcold, though headmitstobeing "slightlydampand cold atthe time." He believes hewas "slightly off the 'trail' " when he started and missed thefirst of the footholds.

Hard mud banks offer no penetration to flailing hands or feet and must be respected when negotiated for any distance vertically. The cavers here might have used a hardline but since they didn't, it is up to them to exercise great care and exactitude in climbing the mud pitch. When you choose not to belay, you can't afford toiall. In any case my hat isalways off to cavers who do a self-rescue; in this case an outside rescue would have been very difficult and drawn-out.