Bighola Cave

Bighola Cave was found in September of 1994. Dennis Englert, John Neack, Pam Duncan and I (among others I can’t remember) decided not to cave, but to ridge walk around little Egypt Valley where Dennis had been finding some new caves in the past few months.

We started with a little hole, just off the road, that I had noticed a few years ago. It was a sealed sinkhole, but after moving off a pile of dead leaves, we noticed a few  holes. I stuck my hands in one, and immediately drew back, because I had felt some glass, and I was worried about getting cut. I felt around, found a handle, and drew out of the ground an intact moonshine jug, with about 2” of moonshine in it. How it got there is anybody’s guess but it had been there awhile. Shinehola cave was then dug open and pushed. It turned out to be a horror hole, with dirt ceilings and collapsing sides, so we wisely let it go.

Striking out cross-country, we found ourselves at the headwall of a canyon where the sandstone meets the limestone. A stream flows off the sandstone, falls about 40 feet and immediately sinks into a jumble of sandstone boulders. We picked around this for some time, till John Neack started yelling. He had climbed to the top of the headwall and had found an entrance! In keeping with the –hola theme we christened it Bighola Cave.

It opened into a low flat room. To one side was a crack leading into a 3-D maze of sandstone boulders. We goofed around in this for a long time, and never found our way into limestone, although we were at least 40 feet under the entrance. We were about to leave  when somebody decided to crawl off to the left and gave us a shout that echoed! They had found the huge room I call the House of Cards. I call it this because the room is huge and on a 40degree tilt, and is almost completely filled with thin sandstone flakes stacked edgewise, one above the other, up the floor of the room to the top. One wrong move and it seems the whole thing will come sliding down on you.

At the bottom of this was a short pit that finally went into limestone (Ahh! Limestone pit). The cave then broke into the top of a canyon that extended for a few hundred feet. At a particularly wide spot, we rigged another rope to get to the bottom. Another couple hundred feet in classic difficult bottom of canyon work and a climbdown into the final series of domes (as I described in the last EC newsletter).

Although it took 6 years to get the map out, it had more to do with the fact I moved to Wisconsin, then the cave or the help. While a little slow at times, the survey went well. A lot of people surveyed for their first time in the cave, including Wayne Barton, and Matt Hayden. The cave netted 2000ft in 4 survey trips.

One of the most striking things about this cave is the fact that it goes directly through the ridge, instead of following the valley. We hope to push again to see if we can get around the drain crawl – all that water has to go somewhere.

Oh yea – and what about the subtitle – Jerrys Humming Buttcrack Cave? Not exactly what you thought. There is a huge boulder on the walk to the cave that is cracked in two, and from a certain point of view it looks just like a buttcrack (you’ll just have to take my word for it). It is tradition to walk through it on the way out from the cave. One day Jerry Unverfuerth was walking through and stopped in the middle. He was convinced that the rock was humming, and was telling us all about it (although he just couldn’t make out the tune). Turned out a plane was flying overhead and the noise was bouncing off the walls of buttcrack rock. But we’ve called the cave Jerrys hummin buttcrack ever since. Better watch what you say when you’re around us.

Howard Kalnitz NSS 20678