Kim's Venturing Crew had caved with Philly Grotto before. While talking with her, she told me she would like to talk to and set up a caving trip for the Venturers Officers Association. She spent considerable time and effort talking to the VOA and setting up this trip for them to Frustration Pit and Corker Hill. Their plan was to meet Philly Grotto at the Morgantown McDonald's on Saturday morning.
I'd like to say the usual were there, but we were missing a few. Steve G., Hanna, Paul, and I were there. I was able to borrow an extended cab truck from a friend so we could all ride together in relative comfort. The VOA was ready to go when I got there. They had a couple people drop out at the last minute, but we still had a good group. We loaded all the grotto and personal gear in the back of the truck and headed off to the caves.
When we arrived at the property, the Steve W., his son John, and his son's friend Kevin were ready waiting, and suited up to cave. The rest of us got suited up, and we handed out helmets and headlamps to the VOA while they divided themselves into two groups. One group was lead by Steve W., John, Kevin, and me. We had 4 youths and an adult leader from the VOA in our group. Steve G., Hanna, and Paul lead the other group with 4 youths and an adult as well. I started in Corker, and Steve started in Frustration Pit. The plan was to swap caves after a few hours.
I went first and sat at the bottom of the entrance to put light into the hole so the group could see what they were getting into. John went next and waited halfway to help guide our guests down. As our guests came down to the bottom of the entrance, they seemed a little apprehensive. One even expressed concerns of possible claustrophobia, so as they came down I talked to them and described exactly what they were going to do and see. They decided they wanted to continue, and I proceeded through the pinch to light up the next room and guide them through it. As I was counting them coming through, my sweep, Steve, came through before I expected. Yup, one had dropped out before entering the cave. I guess it's better to decide there than in the cave. I have unsuccessfully tried to describe this cave before, so I won't bore you with that again. What I found inspiring was the effort of these young folks to overcome a fear and proceed, not just with enduring the trip, but with an enthusiasm of wanting to poke in every hole and thoroughly enjoy the trip. They really developed their team and helped each other through the tight stuff and over the high stuff, smiling all the way.
After a few hours we exited Corker to take a break and try Frustration Pit. What was actually kind of nice was that the folks who were not caving had set up a stove and had hot drinks waiting for us. This was a really pleasant surprise.
As we went off to find Frustration Pit, one of our group decided they were too tired to try the second cave that day. It takes courage to realize and voice your limits. Of course Steve W. had to show them the original entrance and asked, "Who's first?" As they looked down that hole and listened to his description, they looked at each other then back at Steve. "Just kidding." Off we went to the entrance we were going to use. As we looked in this one and described the entrance, we asked again, "Who's first?" This time, without hesitation, the one who had expressed concerns of claustrophobia earlier jumped in and slid down after the leader like a pro.
We covered just about every inch of that cave and poked around a little more. John volunteered to slide in a hole none of us had been in before and shouted back reports of more cave. Next time we'll have to look more into this part. After a few hours, we exited the cave. Overall it was a good day caving. Some people knew their limits and when to say "when." Others made significant personal gains that day. I think that everyone enjoyed the day out, whether they got underground or not. These youths, being representative from different Venturing Crews, where taking back first hand information to their home Crews on planing and executing a safe, ethical, and fun caving adventure. That was my goal.
I went in first and helped guide the Venturers down as they came into the front end of the Halloween room. Soon enough Hannah, who was sweeping at the time, showed up short one adult leader. We then did the standard tour of Frustration Pit, including the cellar where we did the Wint-o-Green Lifesaver bit. As we slowly climbed our way back up and out of the cellar, I let Paul take one of the Venturers, I think it was Gary, up to the bottom of the smaller entrance. They both climbed up and out.
As we got the rest of the group up from the cellar, we all moved up to see that small opening as well. We then went to the bottom of the original entrance. Hannah chimneyed up most of the way to the top and found out exactly what makes the pit so frustrating! We then turned to exit. I let Paul and the Venturers lead. They did a fine job. Although there was a little disagreement at first when we returned to the junction room, one of them quickly pointed out that we were supposed to climb up at that point.
I was in the middle. As we moved up, a very large rock sitting on the slope decided that friction was no longer sufficient to hold it in place, and it slid a foot or so. That put it in a spot where it was more likely to fall the last little bit and hurt somebody, so we helped it over the edge once everyone was out of harm's way. Then we exited to warm beverages and a rapidly cooling wind. One other lesson learned by the Venturers was that Tyvek does not good caving coveralls make.
As with the other group, we lost one more youth before going in the second cave. Going down went smoothly. We poked around pretty thoroughly, seeing just about everything except the A3 lead. A couple of the VOA, Gary and Molly (the tall, thin one), even went up into the Stairway to Heaven with much more ease than can I. This was our last stop before exiting. Hannah (with Paul sweeping) took most of the group up over the rock to just below the plug hole, while I took one other guy around the way we had come. I then spotted for the Venturers as they climbed over the rock and went up through the hole. Soon enough, the last of the group and I were all that remained. He tried to get up through the hole about three times, but kept having difficulties. As I could hear the tension in his voice rise, I suggested he back off and watch me go up through it to see how I moved and where I placed my legs. After I popped up and out, he went at it again, and with a little help pulling on my arm made it up and through the hole. He then went up and out, spotted below by Hannah.
Meanwhile, I rolled up the ladder and started up and out myself. We then all went quickly back to the cars, as it had gotten quite cold by that time.