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June 13, 2004

VOLCANO HOLE


Field notes: M. BELLINGER

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, A. Hyde, M. Bellinger, M. Peterson, C. Timmons, R. Stirling, Lilly Bolt

Time in: 14:30 EST, Time out: 22:30 EST

THREAT VULNERABILITY: Low

We got an early start this day. We found the place, waited for the last of our party and got started at a not-so-early 11am. We walked about 45 minutes to get to the top of this hole. This was a pretty walk thru the hills of Cockpit. Very nice, except for the run-in with the dreaded “cow itch”. Cow itch is very similar to the “itch weed” of Shenandoah only I think it hurts more. It gives me welts and, I think, left me with the skin rash that I always seem to get after one of these outings.

Volcano Hole has a high side and a low side. We opted for the low side as it was lower by 60 to 100 feet. It also gave us access to some solid anchors that were another 30 feet lower and would give us a clean drop from that point down.

Mark Bellinger at Volcano Hole Prepping the rope for this exercise is a fair bit of work. Managing 300 feet of stiff, heavy rope is no small task. The anchor setting was straight forward, but we spent a fair amount of time untangling. This would be a good area to do some research.

So, the good news was we did not need to pass a knot on the descent. We had practiced passing the knot and I had some anxiety about this process.

The rappel was long, but fun. The rope was really stiff and gave a good drag on the descender. After a rocky little drop of about 20 feet, we were in a full drop. We dropped into a cloud of mist. Kind of spooky to see. As I dropped deeper into the hole, the ground below became clearer. My sense of depth was really off as it seemed to take forever to reach the bottom. I think it took about 7 or 8 minutes to complete the rappel.

There was some discussion about everyone going into the hole. It seemed that we would not have enough time for everyone, but we all got down. At the bottom, you could hear the stream. Lots of boulders and rock prevented us from actually seeing it. We scrambled around for an hour or two while folks started back up. Perhaps when the river higher, you can see the water moving through.

Once again, I saw interesting mud formations. Fascinating things. I wonder how old they are?

We had so many falling rocks that it was almost funny. It seemed like the top of every rappel was covered with rocks. So, at the beginning of the descent and the end of the ascent, rocks were being kicked down to those below.

Mostly it was a matter of standing out of the way during somebody’s ascent and descent, but even then random rocks came down. Just before I began my ascent, two rocks fell close. And, about 20 feet from the top, a rock bonked me on the helmet. I think Stef got hit on the arm with a falling rock.

In hindsight, because of the falling rock issue, I wonder if it would not make more sense to rig the high side. This would be at least 100 feet longer than our chosen approach, and would require us to pass a knot. But, it might be preferred to deal with a knot rather than falling debris.

The day ended effectively twenty hours later. From our departure at 7:30am on Sunday to our arrival in Kingston around 3:30am on Monday, made for a long day. Longer still was the ten or so hours that our crew had to sit on top. I don’t think they minded so much, but it is a long day. And, they applauded everyone as they came up; that was nice.

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