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Descent into the Intense

The trip was not intended to be intense or dangerous. It goes to show how swiftly the expected can get flipped inward into the unexpected!

Brian and I were checking out leads in Harrison/Crawford State Forest while Jamie and Brandon were working on their own projects. The meeting time and place was Pizza Hut, in Corydon. During our fine dining, we planned our multi-drop late night adventure. There were 5 different rope drops ranging from 10-80 feet deep each. We were not sure how wet the cave was going to be, but planned on it being "dry" (guessed wrong!). It would involve carrying a cave pack, full vertical gear, and a rope each through the cave system. Brandon kept hitting on the waitress and pointed out cute girls in the restaurant (most were underage!).

We consolidated into two vehicles, the two 4X4's, and headed out of Corydon. Not sure exactly how to get there, Brandon lead us down some horrible jeep trails. I now have a leaking rear tire because of it. We drove around for a good hour, trying to locate the correct jeep trail. We knew we were not in the right place when we spotted the "NO TRESSPASSING" and signs with guns on them. We drove around some more and finally thought we found the correct place to park. When we got out however, Brandon noticed a strong smell of Chlorine. He thought we might have stumbled across somebody's secret "Meth" drug making lab. One thing was for sure, we were in the middle of nowhere and "NOT in Corydon anymore".

Everyone started gearing up and we headed off to the cave. It was a short half mile walk. When we got to the cave, it was not apparent where the entrance was at! There was a massive log/stick fill in what appeared to be the start of the cave. This was surprising but shows the awesome force of water that can blast through the cave. I started pulling out the logs to uncover the entrance. I quickly saw a tight and narly looking canyon passage that quickly dropped into a floorless canyon. It was the caves way of warning you, "Turn back now or else!"

Brandon was taking a picture of me lying in the entrance area on top of the log debris. All of a sudden and without warning, the log debris I was laying on collapsed out from underneath me and fell into a pit! It had created an illusive false floor. Luckily it didn't take me with it into the unknown depths which were later determined only to be 10 feet down. It was an eye opener and could have been deeper as well as me falling into it.

Brian went first into the treacherous canyon. He called that a rope may be needed. Brandon and I started to rig the entrance. A massive log backed to a natural rock anchor did the job. I started into the cave equipped with a pack, full vertical gear, rope, and entrance rope feeding it into the canyon as I traversed. I opted not to also take the camera and dry box because of the grim looking passage and already being pretty loaded down. I wondered how Brian got down it without a rope. It was very exposed with no hand and foot holds. I body rappelled it. Brian and I were off to rig the next pit while Jamie and Brandon made their way into the first entrance drop.

I was taking my time and enjoying the cave since I knew Jamie and Brandon would be moving slow. I was in awe at the incredible down-cutting in the limestone and left behind surface debris, evidence of the powerful water flow that can happen during a rain fall, acting like natures natural "drill". When I caught up to Brian he was already rigging the drop and had me back it around a natural bridge via bowline. I quickly spotted and investigated a dome room. I soloed an exposed free climb up to a ledge. There was an old dry puddle filled with empty snail shells. There was a lead completely filled with large rocks. I started pulling them out as it looked promising. I couldn't tell for sure how many rocks they were holding up or if when I dislodged them how many would fall down, possibly catching a part of my body in the "domino gravity effect". The sound of large rocks falling followed, but a no go. I then realized that getting back down what I had climbed up was going to be tricky.

Meanwhile, back in Jamie and Brandon land, they had gotten to one of the free climbable pits. They were not sure if they should rig it or not. It looked like rigging it would be best. Brandon went down first, followed by Jamie. On Jamie's way down, the rope anchor broke and sent Jamie falling down the 15 foot deep pit. Luckily, the water at the bottom was fairly deep and cushioned his freefall, otherwise there may have been a cave rescue situation.

I made it down and got to the next drop, yelling "On Rope". A natural dam gave way and sent water raging down the pit. Brian and I continued heading downstream until we got to the next pit. The bottom could not be seen and a rock tossed into it fell 2-3 seconds. We must be at the final and last pit, a nice diameter, 80 foot deep pit. We had to wait for Jamie and Brandon since they were bringing the 150 foot rope. The pit was then rigged and padded right directly in the waterfall. This was going to be a full body soaker rappel. Brian was first to go and just at the edge of the pit, Jamie made comments about how the rope he was attached to had been exposed to acid and how it really should have been thrown away. This was followed by a comment about seeing a dangerous fray in the rope near the anchor. I'm sure Brian enjoyed hearing such comments while hanging over the lip of the 80 foot deep pit.

There was also another concern, the bottom of the pit was supposed to be a lake, fully covering wall to wall of the pit diameter. Getting off rope in these conditions would not be possible or at least not feasible. We heard a faint "Off Rope" from Brian and thought that maybe it wasn't underwater. It kind of sounded like he was treading water when he said it. I was next and the rappel was definitely wet and entertaining. I touched bottom into a not so deep pool. I got off rope and quickly noticed the pungent odor of "rotten eggs", a dangerous sign that we had just gotten into bad air. It was most likely Hydrogen Sulfide being produced by sulfur-reducing bacteria present in the water and debris plugged drain. It is lighter than oxygen, and sets at the lowest point in the cave.

Jamie was next, followed by Brandon. Brandon was trying to re-rig the drop to make ascending out of the waterfall to keep dry. In doing so, he set a large rock into free fall motion down the pit, followed by a stern warning "ROCKkkkkkkk!" It luckily hit no one, but it was close. Jamie yelled up to Brandon, "You bastard Brandon!!!"

The trip out was uneventful and walked back to the car in the frigid outdoor temperatures completely soaked. It was now 3 a.m. I made the decision to load up on coffee and donuts and try and drive the 3.5 hour drive back to Purdue. I failed miserably.

Brandon commented:
Jamie and I were trying extra hard to be safe because of our up coming Grand Canyon backpacking trip. This was going to be an easy cave!
Jamie commented:
Hey no broken bones right Brandon? The drop may have been only 10 feet or so, I was already down a ways when the natural bridge broke. And I doubt my rope has really been exposed to acid, but it does have a fray...
Brian commented:
Actually, I think the last rope was only 100'. We rigged the last drop with a bowline around a large natural bridge because we judged that would give us just enough rope to reach the bottom. And sure enough the rope just reached the bottom of the pit.
Brian commented:
I think the rock Brandon dislodged got caught up on a ledge higher up the pit. Never-the-less, as soon as he yelled "ROCK!" I plastered myself against the wall.
Brian commented:
It was an awesome trip. It almost felt like we were in TAG being out in the middle of no where and doing a multi-drop pit cave. Good Times!!
Nate commented:
I was well away from "rock fall zone" investigating the drain, but Jamie made it sound like it was a close call. It's only a matter of time before something goes horribly wrong and one of us gets injured. Good Times...Good Times...
Brian A commented:
I'm from the corydon area, and i'm possitive almost all of the girls that you saw in pizza hut were indeed underage. As for the cave trip, it sounds like another series of close calls. Glad to hear you all got out without and broken bones or anything worse.
Brandon commented:
Well...16 is ok with me :) Just another good cave to visit!  
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