This is a guest post from Christopher Edenbo. Chris is the Chair and Youth Group Liaison for the York Grotto in Pennsylvania.. Chris works at the Diakon Wilderness Center, a part of Diakon Youth Services, which has been a leading provider of specialized services for children and youths from across Pennsylvania. Primarily serving at-risk youths referred by county juvenile probation departments or children and youth services.
I arranged to take the students from one of our programs at work caving. This program is the youth-aging-out-program for young men who are out of high school and still looking for help to beat their tough backgrounds. All of these young men in their past have stood before a judge as a juvenile and received some sort of punishment. Now they are in a program called Flight, to which they had to apply, and be accepted. The Flight program requires of them that they get out of their communities and help others in the greater world through community service projects and outreach. It requires of them that they push themselves and support each other in tough situations. Caving fits in nicely to their yearly plans. Each student in return receives experiences that help them broaden their world view. They receive support finding a job, and in transitioning into a life independent of the families who may not have been there as much as they would have liked. They receive support applying for a college or a trade school. In general they receive a life coach and a hell of a good brotherhood.
Many of these same boys came through programs in which they went caving with me to Carnegie or to Wind Cave. Some of them have even been to Peipers. Last year I took this group to McAlisterville Cave where I pushed them a bit too far past their comfort zone when we went through the Rabbit Hole and traversed that fissure passage. But several of them returned for this year’s caving outing. So I asked around for suggestions for where to bring them. It was Andrew Filer of York Grotto who pointed me toward Whitings Neck Cave in Berkeley County, West Virginia. It’s the sacrificial cave for the D.C. area. It is the Carnegie for Tri-State Grotto. It sounded perfect. I punched in the name of the cave on YouTube and found plenty of amateur videos showing pretty darn close to the exact location, and what people do in there. It looked good for my purposes.
I met them at their lodge on Saturday morning of the 25th. We went over the plan for the day. I handed out supplies for them. (I provided coveralls, helmets, boots, knee pads, lights, gloves). We jumped in vehicles. By 9:30 we were in the parking lot of Yankauer Nature Preserve, North of Martinsburg. We dressed, and walked the road to the dirt path off of Carlysle Road, and walked up that to the cave entrance. I sent a text message to our top cover, Rob Kivlan at 10:30 announcing that we were entering the cave. We were out by 12:20. By my math that was just over 2 hours travelling and just under 2 hours in the cave. I’m cool with that.
We entered the South entrance, found the ladders in the 20’ room to be quite adequate. We moved through the crawls to the large room. There we ducked below into the first drop room. I went ahead to scout. I then brought two students with me and we made a loop. We chose not to exit the cave with a through trip because I did not want to match the skill required for the passage as I saw it with the lesser skill of some of my students. We took a break at the 40’ repel where we sat in the dark and shared some stories while relaxing. Then we headed out the way we came.
While in the cave we saw 2 other groups. The first was a group of 5 from JMU. The second was a “meet up group” of 12 folks who met online in a forum. The meet up was sponsored by a company who supplied everyone with similar cloths to what I supplied my boys with. This meet up group was an eclectic group from D.C.
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