When Good Caves Go Bad

I looked around at all the organic crap mixed with the mud. We were way into the cave, down two rope pitches, and a fairly easy 30ft waterfall climb. This far down, leaves and sticks usually mean one thing - a flow restriction is right ahead and water has been backing up into this and depositing stuff from out side. Not a good sign for the cave continuing onÖ..


I was surveying in Bighola again. Sitting there with a book in my hand and freezing my nuts off, it seemed like mere weeks since I had last been surveying in this cave, but it really had been almost 4 years. A company sponsored extended vacation to Wisconsin (I got transferred) occurred in the meantime. But if thereís one thing Iíve learned, the caves will wait you out. So, soon after moving back, I got the itch to sit in mud, draw bad pictures, and tell myself I am having fun again. Back to Bighola again.

Dennis Englert, John Neack and I found the cave on a ridge walk in 94. It has one of the highest entrances Iíve ever seen in Rockcastle county, some 40-50 feet ABOVE the sandstone/limestone interface. As a result the entrance passage opens into one of the most beautiful, strange, and dangerous rooms Iíve been in. It is a huge room, about 100 by 100, about 20 feet high, on about a 40 degree slant. It is completely in sandstone, and huge flakes of sandstone are racked up along the slope of the entire room. When you are standing at the bottom, it seems like the smallest provocation will cause them all to let go and start sliding to the bottom, like a deck of cards sliding down a tilted board. I donít like even talking loud in this room

A 18ft nuisance drop leads to real limestone, where I start to feel better. A not too bad canyon crawl, then a 40ft rigged canyon drop. A classic canyon bottom passage leads to a 30ft climb down a waterfall. This is where we started surveying


I was keeping book, John Neack ( long time GCG caver) was on compass, and Steve Lugannani was front point. This was the first time Iíve caved with Steve and I really enjoyed it. He caved real hard, carried all the ropes out, and goddam if he didnít freeclimb the two rigged drops. ĎCourse this 5 hour trip was just a blink for this blackhouse mt caver.


Ö.Well, here I was at the bottom of a pit complex, in a crawl, looking at all this organic stuff. Something happens in pit complexes, where good caves go to die. Rainshelter, Homestead, and Bighola, (to name a few) are all high caves that die at pit complexes. John thinks that the pit complexes start first and then the canyons recede back from them, then again he says I have a complex about pit complexes because I always talk about them. But this seems to make some sense.

Anyway, wait! Hereís a little hole in the wall!!!. John and I pop down it. Its definitely the drain. Crawl around a corner, and WHAM, the ceiling comes down to the cobbles. Its wide enough to pass most of the water (but not all, hence the organic crap from  high flow conditions) but not us, ever.

This caves gone bad. Time to put up the survey gear, and make the long climb out. Weíll be back to tour and push to see if there is a high exit out of the complex, but I doubt it. At least I can finish the map now.


But there are other caves out there, waiting. I know it

Howard Kalnitz   NSS (no speleological secrets) 20678