Friday, June 18, 2010

Laurel Caverns Episode 1

A few years back, in a previous life when I was a Scoutmaster, I had finally talked our Troop into going on a wild cave trip. We went to Laurel Caverns in western Pennsylvania (http://www.laurelcaverns.com/). This is really the ideal first time trip for Scouts to experience a dark cave tour. They supply most of what you need including the guides and the cave. They also have other activities than the dark tour like Climbing and Geology Merit Badge. They also offer a few Girl Scout badges as well.
We took the three hour dark tour. I'm trying to condense all the video into a one or two short glimpse of the tour. By the way, the kids in this video are all grow up adults now.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Meet Crew 77 Vertical Caving Team

Venturing Crew 77 is out of Edmond, OK. They've been doing vertical caving for a while and have developed a pretty good program around it. Check out their video on YouTube.




The Crew 77 caving program has been going on for about 7 years. We have explored small caves in Oklahoma, and have graduated to major caving expeditions to the Carlsbad Caverns area over spring break for the past several years. The vertical caving is a direct offshoot to our BSA rock climbing program. It combines the Single Rope Techniques we learn in climbing, and put them in a different and darker context.

We will typically have horizontal caving opportunities for younger crew members and scouts. These will have hiking and navigation opportunities in addition to very scenic and geologically important caves. Training will include trips to Oklahoma caves such as Culp Cave and the Selman Cave System in northwest Oklahoma. Professor Dr. John Bowen is our contact/liaison with UCO for access to the Selman Caves.

For crew members and scouts over 16 years of age, vertical caving is the next step in our program. We spend time in January, February, and March upgrading the participant's SRT skills from simple climbing techniques to the specific performance levels in ascending and descending ropes that enable them to safely and efficiently navigate in the vertical environment. Our minimum requirements for vertical cave proficiency are the same entrance standards that the National Cave Rescue Commission has for their entry level cave rescue training. See: http://www.caves.org/ncrc/national/Students_Area/ncrc_student_resources.htm and click on the Level 1 requirements for the complete 11 page PDF file. We undergo a rigorous training program in our sponsoring organization's Christian Activity Center each available Monday night for three months to provide the training and develop participant's confidence to allow a fun and safe caving adventure. Participants must also demonstrate compatibility with their caving partners, willingness to preserve all features of the karst environment visited, and an overall high level of maturity and safety-consciousness.

Our program is modeled to comply with the requirements in the BSA publication Guide to Safe Scouting at http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/HealthandSafety/GSS/gss09.aspx#b . We also subscribe to the guidelines in BSA publication Caving, No. 19-102B found at www.caves.org/youth/19-102BSACaving+april+2007.pdf . More references to a safe youth caving program can be found in the links at http://www.caves.org/youth . There is information there for parents and participants alike on what is expected of Venture Crew cavers.

Our base camp is typically a commercial campground in Carlsbad, New Mexico. That gives us good access to clean showers, local retail shops, and a secure car camping area so we can focus on the caving on the trip. Most food is prepared in camp, but generally there are two evening meals at restaurants in Carlsbad to unwind from and bask in the cave adventures of the day. We plan for a 10 hour drive between Edmond and Carlsbad, with a whole day of the trip dedicated to safe travel each way.

We also spend a percentage of our trip on cave restoration and conservation. The karst environment is a fragile one, and our efforts have been used to clean man's pollution in caves ranging from Virgin Cave and Hell's Below Cave in the Lincoln Nations Forrest (in partnership with the High Guadelupe Restoration Project) to the main trail through Carlsbad Cavern in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Encore: Dragon Breath Grotto at Hershey Cave 11-18-07

Since Geocities is closing down, I have to move all my trip reports. They are in a sort of blog form, so I'll be moving them over here, one at a time.
========================================================================================The Dragon Breath Grotto (www.dragonbreathgrotto.org) is an Independent Youth Grotto for young men and women 14 y/o (or13 and graduated the 8th grade) to 21 y/o. This was the first official caving trip for this grotto. Most of the members have caved in one form or another before, but this was the first trip as a group. The members from Dragon Breath that were there were Paul S., John L., Dan W., and Dan G. Members of the Philadelphia Grotto who were along were Amos, Marci, Steve Gadd, and myself (Allen) who is registered in both grottos.
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It was in the low thirties and slight drizzle outside as we were suiting up to go inside the cave. We were looking forward to the relatively warmer fifty-five degree cave temperature. The newer guys did well with coming up with suitable clothing for caving. Most of it did wear well, but I'm wondering how it all cleaned up.
Hershey Cave does not have a lot of climbing. There is some, but not as much as others in the same area. Mostly there is crawling. Some hands and knees crawling and some belly crawling. Some crawling seems to go on forever.
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And there’s the mud. Some sticky mud and some slippery mud. The water table was low for this trip. The pit with the pool was empty and made a nice climbing exercise. Another advantage of the low water table is that all that crawling was not in 1 to 2 inches of water. Just a little muddy.
One section was a long crawl to dividing line for Coy Cave. We got up to that line and turned around. It gets really tight at that point and Coy is still off limits.
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Some of the guys went through the front maze. I don’t fit, so I have to take their word for it that it was nice. Overall we were in Hershey Cave about two and half-hours.
This was a great cave for our first trip as a team and things just clicked into place. There were no issues and everyone seemed to really enjoy the challenge and the company. It seemed like every one in Dragon Breath has a friend that they’d like to bring on the next trip. We’ll have to get together and with everybody and see when and where we’ll go next. Hopefully it’ll be next month. I don’t want to wait too long before I get these guys underground again.

For more pictures from the photo album click here.
Back to Dragon Breath Grotto Venturing Crew 9 Home Page.