A Beginners' Trip
Trip Report and photos
by Doug McCarty
On Saturday, February 16, 2002 grotto members Kevin Frick, Jason Thomas, Lisa Thomas, Don Humphrey, Ken Petrice, Bob Griffith, Mary Davis, and I along with new cavers, Phillip McCarty and Mark Randolph rendezvoused at McDonald's in Elkins and drove across the mountains to Mystic Cave. Before we got started, Kevin, who wasn't feeling very well that day, continued a Mon Grotto tradition by helping the property owner repair a stretch of fence. (This cave is on private property, which means permission must be obtained before going in. Mystic is closed from April 1st to September 15th.) The rest of us went ahead into the cave and headed downstream. We figured we'd have to be wet for a shorter period of time by going that way. Basically, going downstream is a pleasant sandy stroll through a nicely decorated stream passage with minimal amounts of crawling or climbing until you come to a short crawl with several deep rimstone bathtubs. From there you go through the fascinating but somewhat more narrow stream passage that leads to the Waterfall Room, where you climb down a 8-10 foot waterfall and go back to a point where the only option for continuing is a low crawl through very cold water toward the West Entrance.
We backtracked upstream toward the South Entrance and ran into Kevin close to the Junction Room. He had finished with the fence and had come looking for us. After eating lunch, we spent some meditative moments in the nicely decorated Formation Passage and then headed upstream. The water in the pools wasn't as deep as it could have been, but in one spot it came up almost to the waists of the shorter members of the party. We yipped our way through the cold water and eventually came to the Big Room, which also contains the pool at the base of the 3rd waterfall.
Several of us wanted to press on to the South Entrance. After a short rest, Jason, Lisa, Ken, Phillip, Mark and I continued upstream while Don, Kevin, Bob and Mary returned to the main entrance and went to visit with the property owner. After climbing up and over the 3rd waterfall, the formations disappear and the caving becomes somewhat harder, with narrower passage and more stoops and crawls. After about 4 or 5 hundred feet of passage, you reach a fairly high (maybe 20 feet) waterfall where you were going to have to climb again in order to continue. To get up there it was necessary to do some chimneying--something we would not do with beginners. Ken and Jason climbed up while the rest of us waited below. I had a 30' length of webbing in my pack, which we made into an etrier. Jason tied it to a convenient rock. I almost immediately had second thoughts. After some discussion, we decided that because the new folks lacked experience for a climb like that, it would be wiser to return to the Main Entrance. It was we more experienced cavers who were choosing to go into that more difficult area of the cave, and we were doing so because of our own desire to do so without taking into account the inexperience of the beginners. Luckily, we realized that before we got them up there in the tight passage that awaited us at the top of the falls. Because he was already up there, Kenny went ahead and crawled the final 200 or so feet it took to reach the South Entrance. Jason climbed back down and went with the rest of us back downstream. Lesson learned: When you're on a beginners' trip, don't forget the beginners.
Phillip and Mark doing a 8 foot or so climb down the 6th Waterfall into the Waterfall Room
Phillip wading in the Water
Don and Kevin
In the Big Room
Back: Mark, Mary, Bob, Kenny, Jason
Front: Don, Kevin, Phillip
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