Ahh.. Hotbox Cave, what can you say about it?

That it is about  a 100 feet of some of the hardest caving in Rockastle County?

That it has one of the tightest Keyhole passages you ever seen that needs to be traversed with ropes in pack.

Or that I wanted to call it Hotbox Horror Hellhole, but Dennis Englert wouldn’t let me because it might scare his brother into not surveying with us.

All true


Dennis found Hotbox in 1994 with Kevin Delk. The cave was pushed down a 55foot  double drop, into a keyhole passage that ranks as one of my least favorite in all the world. At the end of this passage is a small room full of large breakdown. Look quick, because there is a hole between the boulders that leads to another 35 foot drop. This one is a classic as you rappel straight through the floor of the room into a beautiful round pit, with smooth sculpted walls. Get off rope, climb up and you are in a large walking canyon passage. This is where Dennis and the Delks ran out of rope and anchors. Dennis gave me a call ‘cause I had the bolts. We came in a fired two in for the next drop, a 12 footer, but a nuisance. Beyond this the cave started to change character. It went from tall canyon to low stream cobble crawl with running water. It went a good way, but what came next was worth it. We stood up in a big beautifully decorated room with a ton of leads. This room was a mini Hall of the Mountain Gods, with pools, pearls, and formations. We scouted around the room carefull not to be stepping in the pools or on the formations. Down the continuation of the stream crawl we found the fourth and last pit. Being without rope, we went back to the third drop and cut the bottom away and took it with us for the fourth pit. This one went down about 9 feet and deadended. Further digging got a little farther, but not much. So much for the much hoped for connection to Artesian Well Cave the sits in the valley below it!

A couple of survey trips wrapped the whole thing up. During the trip we found a lead with some of the largest pearls I had ever seen! To this day we have only been back once!

My favorite memory of this cave is the story of Mike Englert and the Jumar Tattoo. We were climbing out after a long survey trip. I had gotten off the rope in the middle of the 55 foot pit to look for a piece of gear I had dropped (and never found). Mike was climbing past me, and the sloping mud when he slipped. His chest Jumar had some slack in it, and when he slipped, it whacked him in the face. Hard. It left a perfect red outline of a jumar on his cheek. He was pissed at the jumar and at Dennis and I cause we were laughing our asses off. We wanted to see how long the jumar tattoo would last. I thought he was gonna kill us.

So that’s it, that’s all I can say about this Vertical Rockcastle Gem


This map represents a departure for me. This is the first time I have rendered the final issue on computer. Usually I hand draw a working copy, then ink it, and then typeset some stuff, and go back and literally paste it onto the inked copy. This time I inked the map, and then had it scanned in. I then went back in Photoshop, added the typesetting and all other data, as well as made some corrections. What I found was that the final version looked about the same, but it took me A LOT LONGER!?! I am not sure of why. What I do know, that if I have to make changes somewhere down the line, it should be very quick. For example, I was looking at my last two maps, when I realized I had left out the total distance surveyed. To go back on a fully inked map will be a pain. To go back on this one will be a five minute job. I hope to continue learning more about computer generation of maps.


Howard Kalnitz 20678