Steven Ahn, Eliot Edling, Carlin Kartchner, Jason Lachniet, Janet Manning, Amy Skowronski (reporting), and Nick Socky went to Perkins Cave in Washington County, VA on Saturday, June 18, 2017. Jason and Steve went to the register room to set up a compass course for checking instruments while the rest of us set up our tents. We met up with them and after everyone was signed in, we began to make our way to our leads together.
Everyone enjoyed the Humming Room before heading towards the Forest Trail, First Discovery, the Toothpaste Crawl, etc etc. In true Caving Is Serious Business (CISB) fashion, Nick did the entire crawl after the Torn Peter Tube backwards so that when he reached the end I would sing Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart (“Turn around…”) which I absolutely did because of his dedication to the joke. We soon arrived in the 800’ Crawl where, despite the amount of energy required and general laboriousness of the passage, Eliot and Nick managed to sing sea shanties almost the entire time much to the amusement (dismay?) of the rest of the group.
When we arrived at the walking canyon passage towards the end of the Crawl we stopped to have a snack, drink water, formally organize teams, and set a meeting time for the return to the surface. The seven of us decided to split into two teams of two and one team of three with a meetup time of 11pm before we went our separate ways. Jason and Steve turned and headed toward their survey in the upper canyon passage while the rest of us went the other way towards a room with passage going in two directions. Carlin, Eliot, and Janet turned right while Nick and I turned left (the first of many lefts).
It started as nice walking canyon passage with a handful of formations and slowly turned into nice stooping/hands-and-knees crawling passage with more formations. After about 150 feet, we came to an amalgamation of helectites, stactites, stalagmites, anothodites, gypsum, soda straws, and crystals – practically every kind of speleothem was represented in a four foot section of total beauty. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Frankly, we did as much gawking as we did surveying in this passage.
The next portion of our survey did require some scuttling over rogue cobbles before opening back up into passage we could sit up in. We came to a junction with more formations and a few little alcoves scattered across the ceiling that housed small groups of speleothems. We decided to continue surveying to the left. We did eventually shoot one station to the right-hand passage for the next trip to tie into so they wouldn’t have to re-sketch the junction (always a pain) – station ZST37. This lead is stooping/walking and has great airflow.
Things continued to improve; we were no longer belly crawling and the floor was gypsum sand. Eventually, the floor got less sandy and we arrived in a small room with a crawl-through followed by another small room. Both rooms and the left hand side of the crawl-through had bizarrely decorated floors: it was mostly hard mud, but there were small sections that were fragmented like fractured glass and all the cracks were filled with lines of gypsum. We stepped carefully, hugged the right hand side of the crawl, and soon found ourselves back in stooping/standing canyon-y passage with more gypsum sand.
A little ways further, there was a split in the passage. We again went left and shot one station to the right (ZST18); this lead will require moving the loose rocks on the floor to be passable but it isn’t grim, just cozy, and there is a magnificent amount of air. A short while later, the left hand passage brought us to a 20×25’ room followed immediately by a ~65×30’ room. After surveying in crawls and moderate canyon passage for so long, this was a pleasant surprise.
We enjoyed standing for another 100 feet before the ceiling diminished and sharp cobbles reared their pointy corners to lay claim to our knees, hands, and elbows. Alas, we had chosen our course and continued onward. It started as “Cozy,” quickly progressed to “Sporting,” then “Grim,” and soon it deteriorated into primarily profanity. After almost 150 feet of joyless survey, the cobbles finally ceased and we found ourselves at another junction. In an effort to maintain the status quo, we stayed left and shot one station down the right hand passage for a future tie-in. The lead still goes and it turns into crawling, but it’s by no means terrible.
The lefthand passage was mostly walking through a sandy canyon. As the meetup time drew nearer, we wrapped up our survey at a going lead in a slot canyon (ZST36) before turning around. In total, we got 1045.44 feet in the book.
After 9.5 hours of surveying, we met back up with everyone in the canyons near the Crawl to make our way to the surface. We took the soggier, sloppier stream shortcut out of the cave and exited in the wee hours of Sunday morning (all in all, it was a 14 hour trip). Gear was peeled off, notes were compiled, and beer was cracked. Every team got over 1000’ in the book, and had a combined total of ~3200 feet or ~0.61 miles and bringing the cave’s total distance over 30,000 feet. We all pored over the old map and our notes and compared them side-by-side for a while before deciding it was time to call it a day.
Summary Version: Steven Ahn, Eliot Edling, Carlin Kartchner, Jason Lachniet, Janet Manning, Amy Skowronski, and Nick Socky went to Perkins Cave in Washington County, VA on Saturday, June 18, 2017. We split into two teams of 2 and one team of 3, with each team surveying over 1000 feet for a combined total of ~3200 feet. The cave’s total distance has now passed 30,000 feet!