Hanging Rock Drop - In Search of the Bottom

Hanging Rock Drop Cave is a serious and sporting cave system. It is currently Indiana's 4th deepest cave system @ 243 feet deep with 4,000 feet of sporting cave to traverse. One of the interesting things about this cave is that no vertical gear is needed to bottom the cave. Hand lines are recommended for several places; however we got by without using any. If you are hardcore, leave the hand lines at the car. It is famous for its tight and tortuous "Cat Run" passage. The "Cat Run" passage starts at the entrance and is only 250 feet long, yet has 110 feet of vertical extent in that short distance. It's called this because only a cat could run down this awkward, tight, contorting, sloped passage. Bottoming this cave will 100% slime you.

Driving to meet up with Brian and Sean, I noticed that the rainfall had raised the Blue River water levels considerably and it had a dark muddy color to it. I wondered if this would turn the cave water levels from normally trickling to raging dangerous white water rapids. We would soon find out...

I met up with fellow caving extremists, Sean and Brian, gathered gear and was off to the cave. Unlike some trips, this time we walked right to the cave entrance without any complications! The thundering sound of buckets of water being dumped just within the entrance, confirmed my suspicion of unusually high water levels. None of us were prepared to get THAT wet however. All of us were dressed for relatively "dry" caving with just poly pro on. We suited up and congregated over to the roaring in cave 55 degree waterfall. I had brought my camera along and started taking a picture of Brian at the waterfall. Brian soon grew impatient, posing partly in the waterfall, and took off. Sean followed. I put the camera back in my pack and free climbed down the waterfall.

Onward from here involved belly crawling through a body sized passage along with all the water coming from the waterfall. There were a surprisingly large number of bats seen throughout the "Cat Run" and also the rest of the cave. They seem to like to play games with me where they fly directly at my face and swerve just at the last second to just nearly miss a collision by inches. A free climbable 15 foot drop is next encountered. It is somewhat tricky, but there are foot and hand holds. You continue down the canyon where a 22 foot deep pit is encountered. Getting down this without a rope would be tough, so we traversed across it and free climbed down the second shorter pit. At the bottom, you have to walk right through the pounding waterfall and enter the drain. This drain is tight and has a few "S" bends in it. You get the feeling you are going down a waterslide. This spits you out into a dome room where an old register was found. Dates back before we were born were noted.

For the sane, this would be a good place to turn around and head for the surface. Otherwise, continue through the canyon anyplace your body will fit. You then find yourself bellying in a tight body sized tube with water rushing past you. A 16 foot free climb down the waterfall will end the "Cat Run" and start into the trunk passage.

The trunk passage started out 25 feet wide by 10 feet tall. I thought this would be a great place to take my poly pro off and "wring" it out to keep warm. This probably wasn't the best cave to do having a cold, sore throat, head congestion, cough and about 65% my normal energy level. Subjecting your body to 55 degree water for 5 hours is a great way to overcome a cold. I just couldn't let them bottom this cave without me! So when I was wringing out my poly pro, Brian and Sean ditched me. I had to "solo" cave all the way back to the pit, where luckily I ran back into them. This room is pretty neat, it's a nice sized room with a floor that steeply slopes down to a 35 foot blind pit. That is not the deepest point in the cave though.

We were now in route to the bottom, -243 feet. On the way in, we had overlooked the correct passage to take. It leads to what is known as "The Crack of Doom". It's an obscure 10 foot deep body sized vertical squeeze. We knew it would be "fun" trying to get back up it. From here, there was about 250 feet of awkward walking canyon passage before it got very low and sleezy. This is called, "N.S.S. Crawl", you'll know you are there when you have to belly through a soup-like textured sloppy cave mud. It has a tendency to splatter mud on your face as you whomp through it. When we emerged from here, completely slimed, we could hear roaring water again. We decided to follow the water upstream to see where it went. It's rather awkward negotiating this upstream section of water canyon passage. We followed it all the way to a really tight belly crawl. This was not our destination and headed back to try and find the bottom of the cave, the terminal sump.

There were several horrid looking leads that could be the right one. Sean went into a "wormhole" lead. It was just big enough to fit in and was one of those that takes 5 minutes to move 5 feet types of passages. Brian followed, but I wasn't going to be "conned" into going through that thing. I ventured off looking for the right lead. I found something that dropped down into mucky mud. It had a tight belly crawl going off of it. It didn't look good, in fact, it looked like it pinched too tight. As I was investigating it, I felt gusts of wind hit my face. Following airflow, downstream, has never failed me yet. I took my helmet off and pushed it. At this point in time, by two dive lights went out, it was just me and my trusty 24 LED headlamp to lead the way solo. This is definitely not a fat man's passage; I had to go in just the right places in order to fit. It dropped me into a large room where the faint sound of roaring water could be heard. This was somewhat exciting as I wasn't expecting this. I followed the sound of the water as the passage kept dropping vertically. Soon, I stood at the edge of our destination, the terminal sump @ -243 feet underground. It was pretty neat; it looked like a mini-lake and had a waterfall pouring into it.

At this point in time Brian had lost Sean, and had no idea where I had gone off to. Brian patrolled the passage, yelling out for an answer from someone. I was able to make voice contact with Brian, but he had no idea how to get to me. I thought that Brian knew where I was and was in route towards me to see the -243 spot, so I waited. I soon grew impatient and started shivering. I headed out to meet up with Brian. I found both Brian and Sean. Sean told of his fight for survival in the wormhole. I offered to show them the way to the sump if they gave me a "treat". The treat was a Power Bar and boy was it tasty, complete with a little bit of "frosting" cave mud. I stole some water from Sean's pack and determined it was the most disgusting thing I have ever put in my mouth. The mouth piece to his water bottle was completly covered in slimy, sticky mud.

We had succeeded and completed our mission to the bottom. It was now time to head towards the surface. As usual, the trip out was rather uneventful. I would say that the cave lived up to being a rather sporting cave system.

Old Comments:

bud rogers
naw....only trouble is...i'm the only one with a key to that.  
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