Exploring virgin cave passage

As I mentioned previously, last weekend I was in West Virginia exploring and surveying some newly discovered cave passages. These pictures, taken by Nikki Fox, will give you a flavor of what it is like to visit a place never before seen by human eyes.

Bob surveying

Here I am, trying to sketch the final section of a clean, generally dry flowstone and bedrock passage. Trust me, it isn’t easy drawing a place that your body almost fills.

The lead where this virgin passage began had been known for decades, but had never been entered because it was an opening seventy feet up on the wall in the cave’s largest room. On June 19, 2010, John Harman, Aaron Moses, and Pete Johnson used drills and climbing equipment to bolt their way to this lead, first climbing 70 feet and then rigging a 20 foot traverse across a very narrow and steeply sloping ledge to reach the passage itself. They then surveyed about three hundred feet of large walking passage, stopping only because they ran out of time.

Our trip on July 17 was to continue the survey and exploration. Here we see John Harman as he crosses the traverse.

John Harman on the traverse

The survey continued in large and impressive passage, though we had to do 15 and 10 foot climbs past two small waterfalls to reach some of the back passages. Here, Pete Johnson stands in one of the larger passages.

Pete Johnson in passage

One more picture, of John Harman standing in front of a double helix speleothem.

John Harman, Double Helix

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