Stuck!-In Indiana's Most Treacherous Cave

Two Bit Pit: Two Bit Pit is Indiana’s third deepest cave, @ 251 feet. It has been called the most difficult cave not only in Indiana but in the Midwest U.S. It’s the one cave that cavers fear the most, giving them haunting nightmares of being stuck in the tight Canyon Passage. I personally don’t know anyone who has even considered attempting this cave. Our first attempt we did not make it as far as others have in the past, but I think our story will serve as yet another stern warning to anyone else thinking about doing it. On 64 west, I receive a call from Brandon. He was going to be 45 minutes late. I wasn’t surprised and was running a little late myself, but it worked out well because I got to stop and get one last meal before my last day alive. We met at H/C park office near Cold Friday road (or something like that). We filled out a caving permit. We thought it was a good idea to fill one out for this cave. It hadn’t quite hit either of us yet, just how serious of a cave we were about to get into. We headed to Two Bit. It’s quite funny; you can easily see the entrance just 150 feet away from the car (We had spent 2 hours looking for it during the night time earlier in the year). We both commented about how big headed we were lately and how we thought we could do anything. I went over with Brandon my notes I had taken from the NSS Aaron Atz article. We planned on making it to the fifth drop (what were we thinking!!!). I planned on being in there awhile and packed my pack accordingly (although not much use when there is no way to get to it!…more on this later). We arrived at the pit all ready to go, it still hadn’t hit me yet. We rigged it with my 150 foot rope which was more than enough but the extra rope proved useful coming out hauling gear up the pits. The first drop is 20 feet, but there are several awkward ledges you have to negotiate. Carrying a rope and pack made the first pit more difficult than it should have been. The first pit is not that bad though. There is a nice 10 foot rappel after the ledges to a dome room. Here I wasn’t sure exactly where the next 30 foot drop was so I got off rope and had Brandon come on down. Brandon had fun with the ledges and he had two ropes and a pack. We found the second pit; it was where I thought it was at first. I feed the 150 foot rope down into it. It’s kind of an angled passage which goes into a tight crack which eventually goes into the pit. Once situated with gear hanging from my feet, I started into it. It wasn’t too bad except for when I got a sudden jerk in the rope about half way down. I called to Brandon to see what had happened. The rope had moved into the crack and everything was ok. I bottomed the second pit and looked around. It was pretty neat. Just sort of bigger than I imagined, with adjacent domes. There seemed to be multiple ways to go so I called, “Off Rope” and searched around. Next on the list was a 15 foot dome climb. There was a 10 foot climb up on the right which then dropped back down and was going upstream in a tight canyon like passage. This was probably not the right way. There was an adjacent dome but that looked too high and difficult to be it. All the incoming passages were sloping downward into a very unstable looking free climbable pit. I ensured Brandon that was the correct way to go, but after Brandon got to the bottom he said it didn’t go. He said look up, and instead of going down we were supposed to somehow climb up. It’s interesting because you come up to it midway and it drops 10 feet and also goes up 10-15 feet. Brandon went up first; he then lowered a rope for me to attach our three ropes and packs to. The climb up doesn’t have that many hand or foot holds but is tight so you can put your back against the wall and feet and knees wedged on the opposite wall. At the top there were some formations as well as other places in the cave, but nothing really spectacular (further into the cave, there’s supposed to be some nicer stuff). After a short crawl and a 20 foot climb down we had two ways to go. One was an incoming passage that was heading upstream (not really much of a stream though, more like a trickle) It dumped its water into a pit. There was a few ways to get into the pit. It’s like a long crack in the floor that drops about 25 feet. Brandon and I free climbed it but rigged webbing for coming back out(I reread the article and this was in fact the 30 foot third pit, we were skeptical because it wasn’t 30 feet and we were able to free climb it). At the bottom was a short belly crawl that leads to a fairly large dome room. It had an in feeding canyon passage in it as well but continuing downstream was probably the way to go. From this room, you climb up about 10 feet to take the upper route which looked more spacious. Its hands and knees, after a short turn, the passage turned into a keyhole shaped passage. A hands and knees passage with a tight canyon going down. 

The Canyon: The Canyon, the most feared passage in the Midwest. The Canyon is only 110 feet long but can take 2-4 hours to move through it. At the end of the canyon is rumored full wetsuits and vertical gear. Exhausted cavers just leave there gear behind for fear of having to take it back through The Canyon. We had arrived (although at the time not sure we had arrived). I looked and shined my light down one of the most horrible looking passages I’d ever seen. Just looking at it gave me a dreadful feeling. I retreated to my pack for some food and water while letting Brandon take a look at it. Brandon actually started to go into it and was having a lot of trouble and probably only made it about 5 feet into it. He had to exhale several times. There was also the lower part of the canyon which went the same way. I had dropped down into it and there was a really tight bend and even after that it didn’t look too promising. We switched places I checked the upper route and Brandon checked the lower route. We decided to take the lower canyon and try and do it without taking the packs and ropes (good decision!). Brandon led the way. He quickly encountered the bend. Just after the bend is another constriction. He asked if I had gotten through the bend yet and I said no. I was in the last comfortable spot before the bend and didn’t want to have to wait for Brandon to get through the next constriction stuck in the bend. When Brandon was through I tackled the bend. I can’t describe how you maneuver through it. You just do it. The canyon going in was hell. Nothing like I had pictured it being. I imagined it being more straight passage. It’s just one bend after another, it’s tight and awkward. Once you get through one bend there is another one 5 feet in front of you. You really have to plan out each bend in order to get your body to bend around the turns, especially since its changing direction. Brandon encountered a bend he didn’t think he could make. We were able to back up slightly and switch places, with Nate now in the lead. I got around it as did Brandon. We continued on. Not much was said, as I was continually concentrating on the next obstacle. Occasionally Brandon would call ahead for advice on how to get around something. After being in there for awhile you forget what straight cave passage looks like. Occasionally, the cave would be nice and give us a short 8-10 foot sort of straight passage. I got to a nasty bend and once through saw up ahead probably the nastiest section of the canyon yet. I looked and looked and looked. I could see probably 20 feet through protrusions and constrictions up to a very sharp looking bend. Just getting to the bend looked horrible, and the bend appeared to be a “Mother Of All Bends” from where I was looking. Could this be the “Terminator” or “Exterminator”? I strongly urged that we switch positions and have Brandon lead the way. I said that Brandon was more likely to get stuck here and if I was behind him would be able to go out and get help. With Brandon behind me and stuck, I would have no way of getting past him to go for help. Brandon didn’t like the idea and said he wasn’t going to get stuck (oh really!). I started down it, it was tight and awkward and your body fits through this passage like a glove fits the hand. I finally got to the dreadful bend; luckily there was a way around it, higher. It was a piece of ceiling breakdown with a water trenched bore in it. It was tight and there was a puddle in it. I was able to find a 5 foot wide 3 foot tall rest area just after that. I told Brandon of this and of the place to turn around for encouragement. He got to the bend and was having trouble. I back tracked to help out. He was at the water trenched breakdown area and also that really tight bend. I told him to not do the bend and go through the trenched breakdown.

Brandon’s Stuck: Brandon tried to squeeze through this breakdown. He exhaled and I pulled on him. I guess Brandon’s rear then got him stuck even worse. At first I wasn’t concerned; I knew he would be able to get unstuck. I kind of felt like something was wrong, his lack of cuss words and strange calmness lead me to believe he was really really stuck. Brandon has been in enough caves to know that panicking is not an option. The bad thing about this is Brandon is now a human plug, no way out for me either. If Brandon gets stuck, I’m stuck in the cave as well. 30 minutes probably passed and Brandon is still stuck. Brandon kept asking for advice, but good advice was hard to think up. I knew one thing; being stuck much longer would wear Brandon to physical and mental exhaustion. It had already drained much energy from him, being stuck that long and constantly trying to get free. I told him that we needed to get him backed out of it real quick. There is a certain point where all mental and physical motivation is lost, the give up point. Wedged like a sandwich, with nothing to kick or pull on. The only thing I could do was push on him. Brandon’s shoes were untied for most of the canyon leading up to where he got stuck. He said his shoe was about to fall off. I see this look on his face like, “oh shit”. One shoe had just fallen off and into the canyon. Also a knee pad, although unaware of this at the time. I pushed on Brandon while he exhaled and got him free. Brandon was unstuck after 45 minutes of hard work, but not out of the dilemma he was in. He was now without one shoe and kneepad. There is no way to put it back on in this passage (no way in snowflakes in hell). The best option now was for Brandon to back out. I knew backing out of there and backing through that bend would prove difficult. Brandon lowered himself into the canyon and I was able to crawl on top of him to get in the lead. I could now go for help if Brandon got stuck again. It was slow moving and I dropped my helmet into the canyon. I was able to pick it up but my dive light was hanging by one rubber strap. I was not in a position to be able to fix it and hoped it wouldn’t fall off. Poor Brandon, having to back out of the hardest section of the canyon, missing a knee pad, shoeless and trying to carry the shoe (He left the knee pad in the canyon). He got through the straight part and now there was the bend left to back through. It’s hard enough going forwards, I can’t imagine going backwards. I was able to take his shoe so he didn’t have to carry that anymore. After trying many different positions he made it and finally got to a spot where he could put his shoe on. The trip out was the same as going in. I would return to Two Bit to go further and plan on bottoming it in the near future…

Old Comments:

John "The Dude" Hart
The Horror!
Bruce White commented:
Crack is tough - takes guts to go through it without someone who's never been. But the 6th drop is so nice, and the borehole after is even better.
Ryan Moran commented:
You know me, don't you Nate? Looks like I'll be back in the cave this summer. Hey Bruce...Ocotempa 2005!
Buddy Rogers commented:
I discovered Two-Bit Pit back in 1962 with Bill Zikes. I also invented the rack. Do you have a trash bag in your helmet? You're gonna die!!!! You don't know nothin' you hippie college boys!!!
Art commented:
I own that cave!!! Stay out of it...I marked it with some of my teeth!
Nate commented:
LOL, Art...Buddy Rogers...
Buddy Rogers commented:
The only food worth eating in caves is Beanie Weenies and Vienna Sausages! And the only liquid needed on a 12 hour trip are the juices left in the can after eating!!!
bud rogers commented:
leroy vascoy and i discovered and rappelled 2-bit with a glass coke bottle. how do you think i got the idea of the rack? only trouble is....( fart ) you have to find where i dug out and carved my letters in an oak tree.
bud rogers commented:
that map is $ 1.75....and a $1.83 with tax.
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