Participants: Stephanie Coffey (callout), Brian Devine, Pat Mudd, Tim Miller, Adam Sampson, Molly Semones, John Sies (trip leader).
Objectives: 1) Begin survey on the newly discovered Devine Crack passage off the Mountain Room, 2) Place a new etrier at the entrance to Devine Crack, 3) Fix an issue with the attachment point of the rope hung the day before, 4) Look at digging into a low level crawl off the Mountain Room with waterflow, 5) Watch waterflow throughout the cave on our way to the Mountain Room to learn more about flood dynamics in Big Bat.
cave entry: approximately 10:45 am
cave exit: approximately 7 pm (Devine, Semomes, Sies) approximately 8:30 pm (Miller, Mudd, Sampson)
Before entering the cave the group took a few minutes to run the simple compass course on KKC property. This course also overlooks the stream bed that overlies and supplies the waterfalls. The stream was running at an unalarming but steady pace after the previous evening rain.
We entered the cave through the Mushroom Entrance and were immediately confronted with small trickles just after the climb down to where the first crawl starts. This was unsurprising given that it had rained about 1" overnight into the very early morning hours. We moved quickly to the waterfalls where a small cairn had been built at the edge of the pool in the largest of the waterfalls the day previous to show any changes in water depth. The bottom rock in the cairn was about 1 1/2" to 2" high and only this rock was covered by water. The basin that catches water in this area was nowhere near full and showed no signs of having been overfilled in the 15 hours since we had left the cave.
We moved from the waterfalls to the Helectite Room, from the Helectite Room to the Junction Box, and from the Junction Box through to the far side of the Sand Crawl. No water flowed, stood, or appeared to have stood overnight in any low spots along this route. We moved on to the Mad Hatter and not long thereafter picked up the stream.
At the stream it was very apparent that water had risen as the banks we would normally walk upon in that passage were missing. Depth was not considerable but no one was prepared to possibly be submerged in water except the trip leader who had brought a wetsuit for purposes of fulfilling objective #3 from the list above. The trip leader took a small trowel and dug footholds along the left (West) bank and the group moved slowly forward. Adam left a marker along this route so that we would be able to tell if the water was rising, falling, or staying steady.
After a hundred feet or so we were back to crawling on a mud bank above the stream. We then came to an area where the stream must be crossed multiple times and, again it was apparent the water level had risen in comparison to the day before (roughly BA 120). This time there was no good way to dig footholds and stay out of the water. Normal water depth here is somewhere between 12 and 18". Some members of the group had never been here before and other had only visited occasionally and were unsure about crossing this new obstacle.
At this point, the trip leader entered the water to show the group how deep it was. The trip leader has a 33" inseam and that is about where the water stopped. The trip leader then solicited a yes/no vote from all members of the group as to whether we should go forward. At least two people voted, "No", so the group turned around. On the way back, Adam checked the water marker he had left and realized that the water had gone down by approximately 2" in the 45-60 minutes we had been away.
We encountered Tim Stoops group just as they had emerged from the far (North) side of the Sand Crawl. We informed them of how high the water had risen and that the water was going down. After some conversation between the two parties, handshakes, hugs, and a few bites of some very delicious and crumbled brownies (Thank You, Annette!), the two groups parted ways with Tim's group going North and John's group going South.
Our group decided on a fallback plan of surveying from the Junction Box to Room One as part of a plan to complete a survey between the Mushroom Entrance and the Natural Entrance as a test of the accuracy of the new DistoX. Since only three people would be needed for this survey and the other three would have just been in the way, especially in a belly crawl; Miller, Mudd, and Sampson broke off to survey. The three of them also decided to exit the Natural Entrance since they would be much closer when the survey was completed.
Devine, Semones, and Sies decided to take a side trip out to the entrance to West Cave on the way back to the Mushroom Entrance. They also volunteered to move all of the vehicles for their party to the Natural Entrance so the rest of the group would not have to walk on the surface back to Mushroom Entrance.
On the way out to West Cave we checked to make sure the water depth around the waterfalls was unchanged, stopped numerous times to look at fossils, and discussed how the passage we were traversing related to other parts of the cave. We ended our journey towards West Cave after reaching the end of the tight canyon that intersects the lower level (K or L survey?). Water depth at this point has usually been no more than 6-8". On this day it was approximately 12" deep.
We exited the Mushroom Entrance around 7 pm, changed, and moved vehicles close to the Natural Entrance in anticipation of Miller, Mudd, and Sampson's arrival.