Participants: Stephanie Coffey (callout), Harrison Hyden, Tim Miller, John Sies (trip leader)
Objectives: 1) Complete the high dig in the unnamed crack that Harrison had started a year previous and if it went set a temporary bolt and hag a rope to further future survey, 2) Look to see if Devine Crack could be connected to the Mountain Room at a lower level, 3) Look at water levels for the safety of two trips planned for the next day.
cave entry: 11:15 am
cave exit: 8:00 pm
It was an overcast day with light rain showers when we entered the cave. Because much of Big Bat Cave can flood, the trip leader had been watching the rainfall totals over the previous two weeks. The weather forecast and radar were also closely monitored for a couple of days before the trip. Upon entering the Mushroom Entrance, we were vigilant for signs of elevated water levels. Nothing stood out in that regard until we made it to the waterfalls. Two of the three falls were running at more than a trickle and one of these (the largest) was running at about 1/4 to 1/3 maximum that any of us had seen. Miller took three fist sized rocks and stacked them at the very edge of the pool of the most active waterfall.
We moved on at a good pace taking minimal breaks only when one or more of us needed it. We discussed the possibility that there could be water in the Sand Crawl just beyond the junction box. Neither Harrison nor Miller had ever seen this condition but John remembered his trip from Feb. 2012 when there had been a roughly 4" deep pool spread across nearly the entire width of the Sand Crawl. Upon reaching the Sand Crawl it was immediately apparent that there was no water.
The next spot we checked for increased water levels was just beyond the Mad Hatter where a small stream begins to flow North towards the Mountain Room. Joh thought there might just a little more water than had been flowing in October. Harrison and Miller believed there was about the same amount they had seen a couple of weeks earlier while in that same area.
We moved on to the Mountain Room arriving roughly two hours after entering the cave. Our first stop was the climb into Devine Crack. Miller had problems finding and getting into one of the loops in the makeshift etrier. He came back down and John gave it a try. John also had some issues but managed to struggle up into the crack. Both Miller and Harrison made it up on soon after. Miller promised to bring a sewn etrier the next day and rig it to make it easier for others to climb.
We moved through the very tight canyon passage a short distance to a shaft that contains a waterfall. Even before we had done the climb, Harrison and John could hear that the waterfall was louder than it had been in October. John arrived at the pool at the base of the waterfall first and started looking for where the water was going. A narrow crack went under large breakdown and took all of the water. John started moving smaller rocks to free some of the big breakdown. When Harrison and Miller arrived, John cautioned them to stay off the breakdown he was trying to move as it was becoming unstable (by design). Harrison then used both legs to move a boulder roughly 4' tall and 2' wide. Two or three other good sized pieces were likewise moved by the three of them to open the passage below. John checked the passage and found that it became too narrow, sharp, and difficult to hold oneself up to be truly going passage. Miller also looked and concurred. We moved back to the entrance to Devine Crack and back into the Mountain Room.
We moved on to the crack that contains Harrison's dig 30' off the floor. Harrison started up the climb a short ways and one of the rock pendants he had been using as a hold broke and sent him tumbling about 6' to the floor. Harrison insisted that he was OK and again started the climb, albeit a little more slowly. Watching Harrison climb, Miller decided that there was one part of the climb that he could likely not do and that he would therefore, not attempt the climb (John already knew he could not do the climb). Harrison made it to the top and began to dig. He had to hold his hands over his head to accomplish any work in the tight hole. All John and Miller could do was poke fun at Harrison to keep his spirits up as he dug alone in this very awkward fashion.
After almost an hour of digging, Harrison managed to break through and push himself forward into virgin cave. On the other side he described that there were three ways one could go but left all of them unexplored. At this point, Harrison crawled all the way back out to the Mountain Room where John was able to toss him the bolting kit and rope that had been brought in case the dig turned into passage that would letter need to be surveyed. Harrison then crawled back into the room with the climb and set about the task of putting a temporary bolt in a relatively inconspicuous place 30' above the floor and hung the rope. The bolt will likely be removed when survey is compete.
At this point, the trip had gone on long enough that even if we could have made it out in two hours, we would be about 30 minutes later than planned. Not wanting to worry Stephanie, all agreed to head for the surface.
On the way out all water features and low lying areas of concern were checked for rising water. No signs of flooding or even slight rises in water level were found in any areas from the Mountain Room to the Mushroom Entrance. All three made it to the surface safely.