Updates from Amy and Jason – Perkins trip reports

Report courtesy of Jason:

That was a great weekend of surveying. Thanks to everyone for coming out and getting a lot done. We met pretty much all of my objectives, hitting the STP Room, closing major loops, completing the 800′ Crawl, and finding a viable route down to the Second Stream. Total survey was 1,959 feet, of which 1,878 counts as new cave length. Total is now 5.1 miles. I will send copies of the notes back to the sketchers next week. We also reached a new low point, bringing the cave depth to 205 feet.

Report courtesy of Amy Skowronski:

Friday, March 17, 2017

(In alphabetical order) Eric Cueva, Bill Grose, Jason Lachniet, Janet Manning, Amy Skowronski, Caleb Taylor, and Zach Taylor entered Perkins Cave (Washington County, VA) around 5:30pm. After everyone was signed into the logbook near the gated entrance, the first team (composed of Jason Lachniet, Janet Manning, Caleb and Zach Taylor) took the high route and went through the Tight Place, with the plan of meeting the second team (composed of Eric Cueva, Bill Grose, and Amy Skowronski) in the canyons below the Tight Place in the Dirty Old Men section of the cave, where both teams would survey.  The second team was only half an hour behind the first, after traveling through the scenic Forest Trail, First and Second Discovery, and the various crawls. Both teams got to enjoy a small portion of the cave featuring unavoidable, exceptionally stab-prone popcorn – splendid!

Both teams tied into station DOM 7; Team 1 went to the right and Team 2 went to the left. Our (Team 2) survey led us through a canyon with a handful of nice formations and brought us to a junction. As we worked on the lead to the right, Bill waxed poetic about reading instruments from poorly placed stations and as he wrote ‘DOM 14’ on a piece of flagging tape and tied it around a rock said, “Man, the guy setting stations really doesn’t know what he’s doing.” before chortling heartily at his own joke. We killed the right-hand lead and headed back to the junction.

We decided that the down climb at the end of the left-hand lead couldn’t be free-climbed and carried on down the canyon passage. Surveying was going quite smoothly, front sights and back sights were matching, and Bill gave us some great tips about how to accurately get measurements from a station placed on a wall: “Be a flounder!” Thanks, Bill. We found a nice little loop, but part of it would require Spiderman-esque skills, which no one on the team had. The smallest person (myself) was lowered via webbing to the bottom where I found that although I couldn’t get down without assistance, I was able to climb out in one particular spot using a Didn’t Feel Sketchy But Looked Haphazard To Everyone Else On The Team dynamic move. Since the passage died and the other folks on the team weren’t too keen (for good reason), I was passed the instruments and solo-surveyed the last part of the passage: a gloppy, watery crawlway. It was fairly bleak. On the bright side, Bill and Eric were still vaguely audible and could be heard laughing.

As 11pm rolled around, we started making our way back. Jason met us at the junction we surveyed and went down the left-hand lead that we had determined to be unclimbable where, as is standard, he climbed to the bottom and had no difficulty getting back out. After reconvening at DOM 7, the teams changed a bit because I wanted to give the Tight Place a try but we didn’t want to send Eric and Bill out with just two people. Zach, Caleb, Jason, and myself exited the cave about 30 minutes before Eric, Bill, and Janet. The trip was ~7 hours.

There was a slight drizzle outside which made for very peaceful sleeping.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The annual Appalachian Cave Conservancy meeting took place in Washington County, VA on Saturday morning in the field station near Perkins Cave – as is caver tradition, the meeting started a little late but there was good food and hot coffee! The first team (consisting of Steve Ahn, Michael Johnson, and Carlin Kartchner) entered the cave about halfway through the meeting. After the meeting, the second team (comprised of Jason Lachniet, Janet Manning, and Amy Skowronski) made their way into the cave. The commute to our survey was fun and interesting; we moved at a reasonable pace since I was trying to learn the route and Jason pointed out recognizable features and leads as we went.

We caught up with the first team after the 800 Foot Crawl – at first I thought the name must be an exaggeration but as Jason said, “Well, ‘four hundred foot crawl, twenty foot walk, three hundred and eighty foot crawl’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.” We found Carlin sketching in a belly crawl while Steve and Michael wedged themselves in a very small space that could be considered a crawl but I would describe as “abysmal.” We wished them good luck, traveled to a walking canyon passage where we ate food, and dove back into the crawl to survey. We continued the EFC (Eight-hundred Foot Crawl) survey, used the same designation, and had some fun suggesting alternate names – for example, Easy Fun Cave (and some others that perhaps ought not be included here).

Almost immediately, we ran into some trouble. I know my StenLight has a magnetic switch, but had no idea the auxiliary light I was using also had magnetic components (whoops), so we had some difficulty getting accurate readings for a couple shots until we determined that I’m a dingleberry. Luckily, Janet is a razor-sharp instrument reader so we were quick to figure out the issue. We encountered another issue later in the day, when I decided that I wanted to see some formations with proper clarity and just deal with the hassle of reading instruments with glasses. After a couple shots we realized that my frames are, in fact, magnetic. Alas, they were returned to the Pelican Case.

We closed a loop and met back up with the first team (who had surveyed the walking canyons where we’d had lunch) in a room with some great fossils in the ceiling. Janet took some pictures of the shells and crinoids before we headed down a promising lead. The passage started as a stoop-walk but it opened up the further we went and soon we were standing on a large rock wedged sturdily in the middle of a 30-35′ tall canyon. The walls were littered with helictites, making travel (and survey) a very delicate, careful process. We had some difficulty on one particular shot and were getting readings that were consistently four to five degrees off from one another, even after we tried switching places and switching instruments. Very weird. After extensive deliberation, we decided that the cave had a black hole in it and the magnetic field surrounding it was definitely the cause of our instrument issues. But in all seriousness, it was really bizarre.

We got to a part of the canyon that Janet and I were uncomfortable with since neither of us had the required leg length for the move needed to pass around a rock. Rather than risk it and plummet to the bottom, we voted to climb down – rather than across – the canyon. This proved to be a most fortuitous choice. After one particularly grueling high angle shot, we found ourselves in a decorated, sparkling area with lots of wind and audible water. Objective #2: Locate a water source — ACHIEVED! We surveyed to the water, rejoiced, and packed our bags.

Very pleased with our discovery, we retraced our steps to Carlin, Steve, and Michael who wanted to wrap up the room they were surveying before turning around. In the interest of avoiding inevitable bottlenecks on the exit, we decided to head out and wait for them on the surface (where there was hot food and cold beer). Exit fever was running high and we scrambled through the 800 Foot Crawl in about fifteen minutes and flew down the 50’ rappel – it’s so much nicer to rappel than free-climb when you’re tired – to the stream. We opted for the stream exit since it takes less time and it cools you off as you go. It was about 1am when we left the cave, making it an 11 hour trip. Upon exiting the cave, we found it was sleeting; good thing we went through the stream on the way out! The lack of trees in the field made for rather breezy changing, but those dry clothes felt all the warmer. Camp stoves were fired up, (very) cold beer was cracked, and we chatted until the first team exited the cave – about an hour after us – before hitting the hay.

photos courtesy of Janet Manning and Bill Grose

March, 2017 surveys

Passage surveyed during the March 17-18 project weekend shown in blue

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