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Butler - Woway

Recently with the access provided by the Big Bucks Pit entrance to Barberry, some of us have been working to connect the upstream Woway to Butler Cave. We have a positive dye trace from the pit in Whee Land to the stream in the Woway. So with this encouragement, radio locations connecting the Crystal gallery and the Woway have been done. There is 480' between the pit where the dye was dumped and the end of the survey in the northmost passage in Barberry reaching for Butler (see the graphic). Mike Ficco has crawled about 60' beyond the survey so there's only 420' to go. But this is a long way through rock!

What is curious about the relationship between the caves is that Barberry appears to be totally in the Breathing Horizon while the area in Butler closest to Barberry is stratigraphically below the lower Clifton Forge sandstone. Furthermore in elevation the bottom of the pit in Whee Land is 50' higher than the passages in Barberry reaching for Butler!


Pancake Weekends 1998


This year was very rewarding with the discovery of Buckwheat Cave up the hollow behind Nevin Davis's house. As of 25 April 1998 the cave has 1604 ft of surveyed passage and continues. High water was a problem on the second weekend and limited the surveying to a 4 hour wet trip. The cave holds the key to the northward continuation of Barberry Cave. (As of April 1999 Buckwheat has 1806 ft of survey and is 134 ft deep. The cave is however less than 20 ft from connecting to Barberry Cave.)



Pancake Weekend 1999

What a beautiful weekend for digging! The sun was warm and bright and a light breeze carried the clanking sounds of picks and shovels and excited chattering of around 25 diggers ready to find the next Big One in Burnsville. One team started up the hill behind Buckwheat Cave to dig on a melt spot Nevin had found. Another team began a dig on Fred Wefer and Will White's property just across from the old Breathing gate. A small collapse and melt spot was the object of their interest. I started through the beautiful fields of The Hole Place to dig on something I had never seen. Cori Schwartz, Mike Ficco, Tommy Shifflett, Keith Wheeland, Andrew, Phil and Charlotte Lucas and I were the primary crew for this dig.

I decided to dig at this particular spot after developing a theory that there should be a cave similar to Buckwheat in the next hollow to the north. This small, shallow sink has a similar geological setting as the Buckwheat entrance in that it lies just below the same sandstone layer and is near the funnel point of three hollows coming down Chestnut Ridge. When I saw the sink for the first time, it certainly did not look impressive. About 10' wide and 1.5' deep, there was not even the tiniest bedrock ledge protruding from the flat leafy floor. That did not dispel my good feeling about this sink though. We eagerly cleared out the leaves, a small bush and the thick mat of roots. Soon our shovels began tossing out sandy dirt mixed with rocks. The digging was pretty easy and the hole quickly deepened. In no time at all, we needed to use buckets to haul out the dirt. At around 5' deep, we discovered a solid limestone ledge running diagonally across one end. We quickly enlarged the hole away from it and began digging down beside the ledge.

Around noon, Phil, Cori and I went over to the dig on Fred and Will's to borrow a shorter shovel. Their hole did not look great but they were obviously having a lot of fun. About an hour later, Mike and I went over to get some water and see how the others were doing. To our astonishment, we arrived to find a hole and three people already in a cave! Gregg teased us about being unproductive as we returned to our dig.

Not to be out-done, we continued our determined efforts to find a cave. Around 4:00 p.m., we had dug a hole 13' deep with no sign of an entrance. Interest in the dig was waning and people began wondering what looked so good about this place anyway? I was in the hole as Gregg and Mike Artz arrived to tell us about what their team had found. Suddenly, at 4:04 p.m., I pushed a shovel under a ledge and opened up a small hole into blackness! A good breeze began blowing out as everyone's interest quickly returned to digging. After another 2' of depth, a larger hole fell out from under Mike Ficco and cold air began billowing out. Several rocks were removed and I squeezed into the tight horizontal crevice. Using my feet, I felt my way through a short passage that abruptly turned straight up. After a few tries, I pushed myself up into a small room. On one side was the small hole I had originally found. On the other was a crawl leading to another small room and a dig lead. All the air blew out of this lead. Turning around, I exited the new cave. Tommy quickly dug the original small opening into a crawlway that eliminates the lower crevice. Mike and Tommy hammered on the next dig but we really needed a chisel to be effective. Since it was already after 5:00, we decided to call it quits for the day.


We decided to name the new cave Blind Faith for my blind faith that we would find something in a place I had never even seen.


On Sunday, March 21st, Gregg, Jean Hartman and Nevin returned to the cave and dug through the constriction we had stopped at. Beyond this, they dug through several more constrictions and turned around at yet another. So far the cave is only 50 or 60 feet long but the very strong airflow indicates significant potential for more passage. Perhaps the next issue of the BCCS Newsletter will report on many exciting discoveries in this new cave.


Gregg's team discovered a 100+' cave on Fred and Will's property with slight air movement and a very grim lead at the back. Nevin's team found a small dead end cave and worked on another dig with good potential. It sounds like this dig blows air in the winter, is in a good place on the ridge and should be worked on some more.


Overall, Pancake Weekend 1999 was very enjoyable and productive. Lots of socializing and digging took place, a fun time was had by all and we need to buy another culvert!



27 March 1999 Blind Faith Yields Passage

Ron Simmons decided to come along to get out of his house after 7 weeks of recovering from shoulder surgery and only intended to sit, chat and watch Nevin and I dig. Little did he know.... I got back to the end of the cave with no problems and made the second pinch a good bit larger. Turned out that the whole left wall of it was weathered rock for 3 or 4 inches deep. I got down to the end of the tight crevice where Gregg and Jean had stopped digging, pulled out a few rocks and poked my head up into a parallel crevice. It is only about 1.5' wide and 5 or 6 feet high. As soon as I stuck my head in it though, I knew it wasn't the way to go. No air. The outside temp. was 40 and the air was really moving! A quick look around showed me where the air was going; right into the pile of rocks completely blocking the passage straight ahead.

After some more rock moving, I could see the air being sucked straight down at high velocity through a 3" hole between some more rocks. I spent quite a while beating on some very hard rocks and finally got most of them out revealing a 4" x 20" crack into a larger void below. Nevin then crawled in and spent some time removing another rock before I went back in again. I was able to start pushing mud and some of the smaller pieces of broken rock down the hole so that sped up the whole process a good bit. I could hear rocks falling about 10 or 12 feet to a dirt floor. Booty lust began to take hold and I dug faster, moving gloppy clay and finally levering out a couple large chunks of rock. Nevin asked how it was looking and my reply was "I'm going in"! I slid feet first down the vertical slot and wedged myself into the top of a very exposed and sloppy 5' wide hole looking out into a 15' x 20' room about 10' below. We didn't have a rope with us but I was able to get down a few feet and jumped the last 5 or 6 to the floor.

There was no immediately obvious way on but after a quick look around I found a vertical chimney off one side of the room. All the air was sucking down this hole. I told Nevin I would check things out for a minute. The chimney had a lot of loose rock in it so I spent a few minutes digging and knocking stuff down. It goes 25 or 30' down. A very narrow crevice went off the bottom and appeared to end in 5' as a low dig. I squeezed down into it and found that the dig had none of the air. It was going up. At the end of this crevice is a "T" intersection with another one. I managed to stand up and found a small tube 6' off the floor that had all the air sucking into it. A bit tricky, but I was able to squeeze up into this as well. It goes 4' and pops out into a 4' x 4' passage that runs parallel to the second small fissure at the "T". I turned left (it goes right with no air) and went 15' to a climb down into what looked like walking passage 15' below. At this point I was about 100' from the others and decided to go back and see if I could get back up the 10' climb. I managed to make a very wobbly pile of rocks on a breakdown block and use this as a launching pad to get back up into the crack in the ceiling. Good thing I have long legs....

I told Nevin and Ron that it looked good and we decided to go back to Nevin's and get a ladder. Total time in the cave to this point was about 4 to 4.5 hours - most of it spent hammering. We walked back, got the ladder, an aluminum mud piton (Bobcat vintage, I think) and a bite to eat. When we got back to the cave, I drove the piton in the floor and rigged the ladder. Ron was not expecting to go caving but decided to take it easy on his shoulder and do a bit of scooping with us. We got to the climbdown I turned around at (after making the tight crevice a walk-through passage) and climbed down into what turned out to be a 20' diameter dome room. Under a breakdown pile a sloping crawlway went for 40' to a 6' climbdown and 10' of walking canyon to a hole in the floor. We could see down into 10' x 20' passage 12' below us but it was one of these places where getting down would be one easy hop but getting out was pretty much out of the question.

I really wanted down and decided to go back for the ladder. Nothing like doing a pull-down trip when you don't know if there is another entrance! A few minutes later, I had the ladder. Down we went. It's about a 12' drop with a 10' overhang a couple feet down. The passage goes 20', through some big breakdown, down another 6' climb and 10' to the edge of a 15' drop looking into 10' x 30' high passage. We didn't have any way to get down this drop and it was time to stop scooping. By this time, we have picked up several tiny infeeders and there is a small stream going over this last drop. The air goes this way as well. We estimate that we are already 125' deep (or deeper) at the bottom of the 15' drop. We saw around 300' of passage.

What some people find when they begin blindly digging....



3 April 1999 Blind Faith Expands

John Rosenfeld, Mike Artz and I surveyed 700 ft in 46 stations on Sat. The cave is 150 ft deep to the stream and the stream passage is about 350 ft long (at least what we surveyed). Downstream (northeast) it goes into a muddy near sump which will require a hammer and a wetsuit. Upstream the passage is nearly blocked by breakdown but I found a way through and the passage continues with air. The survey stops at the breakdown. There's no borehole but at least it continues.



9 April 1999 Blind Faith

Tommy Shifflett and I surveyed 35 new stations and added 662 ft of survey to the new cave on Friday afternoon. It's length is now 1387 ft. Two of the most promising leads are 7 ft high by 3 ft wide and 30 ft high by 5 ft wide but there are others. This isn't bad for a cave dug open 3 weeks ago.



17 April 1999 Blind Faith

The entrance is in the bottom of the ravine southeast of the house. The cave drops 162 ft to the sump on the northeast end of the cave. To the southwest and upstream the cave seems to be going great guns. This weekend two teams Ben & Cori Schwartz and Gregg Clemmer, Jean Hartman and N. W. Davis surveyed a total of 893 ft. putting the total surveyed passage at 2280 ft. The cave continues as a large canyon going southwest. The distance to last year's project, Buckwheat Cave, is about 1000 ft.