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The Butler Cave Bean Room Trip Reports

The Expedition on April 24, 2010 focused on the Bean Room in Butler Cave. Here are the trip reports.

Phil's Blue Ribbon Dig - 4/24/2010

Saturday was Butler Day. Our Expedition Leader, Tony Canike, was much more organized that I was - for sure. For each team, he had a packet of material to help them find the site to which they were assigned. I was a team leader and promptly lost my packet. (If anyone finds a large manila envelope marked Team 5 it's mine.) His work was complicated because a few of the teams were separated but were working toward the same goal  - therefore they had to coordinate their efforts. I heard that they successfully accomplished their mission.

My team consisted of Ed Kehs and Natalie Hirneisen. Natalie is a member of Philly Grotto and Nittany Grotto.

The unofficial assignment of the team was to check out potential digs in the short downstream bypass just downstream from Pats Section turnoff. We began there first. If you look at the map of the bypass you can see a long dead-ended passage that goes off the bypass. It steeply dips up. I crawled in the floor section to its end and noted a pile of clumps of mud - evidence of human disturbance. I also found a yellow mechanical pencil with the writing "US Army Reserve - Be all you can be". Ed climbed up to the ceiling of the passage and found evidence of disturbance. The mud clumps that I noted came from above. I suggested that we dig for twenty minutes and we all agreed. Well! We took turns digging and all-told spent an hour. Someone pointed out that indeed it was twenty minutes - apiece. While Natalie was taking her turn at the dig face, she blew out the flame of her carbide lamp. We were only six feet behind her and neither of us could smell acetylene. This indicated that our suspicions were correct that the air was moving into the dig. I suggested that we name the dig. Natalie suggested "Be all you can be". Are we now starting to name digs with "B" in mind? "Aarrg" some would say. Just joking. Forget about "B" digs!

I was telling Nathan Farrar that I don't know much about geology nor hydrology, but when I'm in a cave or out ridgewalking I like to pretend that I am water. Then I ask myself, where did I come from and where did I go? I always find that the answers are interesting and sometimes they even tell me something important. I was trying to do that in the bypass. A very promising dig perhaps is the one that another Nittany Grotto member and I began many years ago. It is very promising if you pretend you are water. Water has cut down through the sediment fill in this part of the bypass in order to reach the present stream. I think this dig will be easy to begin with since it just involves lowering the floor. While we were back in the dig, I noticed another hole that someone else had dug upon. I lowered the floor in order to squeeze in. I found a small room with no outlet. While I was inside, Ed lowered the floor a little more because he saw how much I struggled to get inside. His work sure made my exit easier. We left the bypass the way we came. Since it was not our intention to dig, but only to assess the potential for digging, we accomplished this mission.

On our way to our official assignment, we stopped a few minutes to check the progress of the Air Dig team. If you have the chance, it's worth seeing the Phil's Dragon trolley in action. I may have the name wrong, but you get the message.

Our official assignment was to survey Phil's Blue Ribbon (PBR) dig. If you ever go there and see the pile of fresh looking limestone you will understand that this was a little more than just a "dig". I understand that much earlier during the survey of the area one could see through a small space that connected larger areas of the cave. Nevin had placed a blue ribbon as a marker that he could sight to in order to tie in the surveys.  Phil recently made it crawlable. Our team found a known station, surveyed through the "dig" and tied into another known station. I defended my not so nice sketches by stating that the passage itself was not so nice. Parts of the passage were not really crawlable, they were more like squeezable. Seriously I hope that my sketches are helpful in showing the new squeezable connection between the large booming passages. It was my treat to visit a portion of Butler that I'd never been to in my scores of trips into the cave. We accomplished this mission.

Our last unofficial assignment which was tacked on at the last minute was to survey my "secret" way past the cave pearls down into the Bean Room. It's not all that secret since I have taken a few groups down that way. When I get back to State College I will look up and report on citations of BCCS Newsletter references. We didn't accomplish this mission.

After we finished the PBR survey we looked around a little near our tie-in station. It was getting late, and I was tired, so we headed for the surface and signed out at seven p.m. after eight hours underground. In discussions afterward it was suggested that the next step that our crack-the-whip Expedition Leader would take would be to keep us locked in the cave until our trip reports were handed out through a slot in the gate. In hopes that I could delay that next step, I finished my trip report on the spot. I was almost finished before Maret handed me my first post-cave beverage. Thanks, Brad for supplying the treat.

Others will have to report on the efforts of their teams and the shared birthday celebration that occurred that evening.

Keith Wheeland 4/26/2010

Bottom of the Bean Room 4/24/2010

Having just read Keith's report on his week in the cove, I decided to make a brief report on my part in the big Butler expedition.  Nevin was team leader and will certainly have more to say.

Our mission was to survey the Bean Room and tie in to 3 upper levels.  Nevin ran the instruments, Nathan Farrar took the notes while Jean Vargas and I found and marked stations and measured distances.

We started from a known station at Rotten Rock Falls and proceeded to the Bean Room.  I think I was there once, over 50 years ago, but memories fade.  It is quite impressive, though more of a high passage than a real room.  I measured ceiling heights at up to 100 feet.  There is a large chock stone wedged between the walls some 70 feet up, reminiscent of the Guillotine Stone in Schoolhouse, though not as large.  We placed stations along the room and tied in to markers another team had set on three high overlooks.  I do not have the notes but I recall distances of 70 to 90 feet to these overlooks.

At its SE end, the Bean Room ceiling drops precipitously and Rotten Rock Creek disappears under one wall.  A short climb up and through a crawlway leads to another, smaller stream coming in from the right.  We surveyed up that for several stations until it became impassable, then started downstream.  The goal was to tie this into Difficulty Creek.  We placed several stations as the ceiling became progressively lower.  Jean was able to get through into larger passage but Nevin was unable to maneuver into any position that would allow him to sight the instruments.  As time was getting late, we marked our last point MP30, and retreated.  Nathan went ahead as he had to be out before 1800.  The rest of us took it a bit slower but still made it to the surface by 1810. 
Rotten Rock Falls was an easy climb down but I found it an extreme challenge to get back up.  We had a rope but it was of little use in the narrow crevice.  More useful would have been a large hammer to break off an offending point or rock (not at all rotten) that snagged my clothes and one of Phil's bolts for a foothold.  (There are several of these at key places in Water Sinks.)

John R. Sweet 4/26/2010

 

Upper Bean Room Survey – April 24, 2010


As part of the April 24th Expedition, the Upper Bean Room team entered Butler Cave via the SOFA entrance at 11:15 am. The team consisted of Brad Cooper, Maret Maxwell, Scott Olson, and Tony Canike (reporting.) Our mission was to extend stations out above the Bean Room at three overlooks so that the Bean Room team could shoot up to our three extended stations. When we entered the cave we were equipped with the usual assortment of caving and survey gear, plus a bundle of 4 foot bamboo poles, a role of duck tape, and three large white envelopes to serve as the survey stations and laser targets.

Our first objective was the Balcony Overlook on the route from the Nicholson entrance to Sand Canyon. From the SOFA entrance we went up past the Rimstone Dams, over the Step Across, and up to the junction with the Balcony Overlook. We then continued further towards the Nicholson entrance and located station “29” for a tie-in. We then surveyed back down the way we came, exploring a couple small floor pits and sketching some detail for the map. Brad and Scott attached an envelope to a bamboo pole and extended it out over the lip, and we surveyed to it. We set new stations BR01-BR07, with BR07 being the extended station.

Our second objective was at the Bean Room Step Across, another overlook down into the Bean Room. (Remember that the “Bean Room Step Across” and the “Step Across” are different locations in the cave.) We went back to the Step Across, climbed down it, and proceeded to the Bean Room Step Across. We enjoyed jumping over it back and forth, making little gleeful noises each time. Or maybe that was just me. Anyway, needing a good tie-in, we travelled towards the top of the SEG passage and the area under Phil’s Ladder. We tied into old stations “11” and “12M”, and we made a 16.5’ shot up a side passage under station “11” as the passage was not on the map. We then surveyed back to the Bean Room Step Across. By this time we started hearing voices in the Bean Room below. We placed our bamboo pole to extend a station out over the drop and the Bean Room team shot up to it. They then set station MP9 and we shot down to it, because it might be useful data. We surveyed across the Bean Room Step Across and tied into an old soot station labeled “Y” with pencil. Nate Walter and I had examined this station on 4/10/2010 and were not sure if we could trust the apparently newer label. Then we climbed back up the Step Across and headed towards our next task. In this part of the survey, we set stations BR10-BR18, with BR17 being the extended station.

The third objective was at the remaining known overlook, which was surveyed to on 5/24/1998 by Keith Christensen, Scott Olson, and Istvan Urcoyo. The 1998 team placed station KSI7 near the overlook, and it was our task to setup an extended station so the team below could shoot up to it. We tied into an old station “20” on the Nicholson Entrance to Sand Canyon, and we surveyed to the overlook and our extended bamboo pole station. We were able to locate KSI7 and tie into it. From our overlook we could see across the Bean Room to our first extended station at the Balcony Overlook, unfortunately our FaxMax laser rangefinder could not take a reading, most likely due to the distance exceeding the 100’ range of our instrument. We set stations BR30-BR36, with BR36 being the extended station.

Even though Maret had by now mentioned “cocktail hour” a number of times, the day was still young, and we decided to continue surveying onward, as we could survey sections of Phil’s Blue Ribbon loop that were lacking in detail, accurately sketch the room where Phil’s Ladder was located, investigate a discrepancy between two survey lines in the area, and finally loop around and tie back into station “11” that we had used for the Bean Room Step Across tie-in. While climbing down Phil’s Ladder, we remarked at the steep loose slope approaching the overhanging 10’ down climb, and we were happy to use the ladder. The words “cocktail hour” were being heard more frequently, so we completed our survey task quickly, tying into station “11”. We set stations BR40-BR49.
We scurried back around to the three overlooks to gather up the bamboo poles, and we began our way back to the SOFA entrance. When we reached the climb down to Rotten Rock Falls, we discussed going down, as most of the team had never been in the Bean Room. But cooler heads prevailed, persuaded by Maret’s motivating words “cocktail hour.” We then exited the cave at 5 pm, perfect timing according to Maret.

Tony Canike 5/8/2010