An Emerald Virgin, 2012

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An Emerald Virgin
Location High Guads
Author Lee Ann Dean
Date March 3, 2012

March ’12 six LAG members comprised half of the High Guads Restoration trip participants. After our last month recreational trip to the same area in which we “almost froze” and I struggled to ascend out of Hell Below, I was not too eager to join the trip. Our safety officer Michael worked with me a few days before to adjust some gear and restore my confidence. Lucky for us there were a couple last minute cancelations so Michael and Joseph were able to join Derek, Tammy, William and me along with six other New Mexico cavers. Although Jennifer sent us detailed instructions to find the campground, we felt lucky to have William guide. Jennifer herself got somewhat lost finding the campground. Her description of “almost 4 wheel drive” for the road was appropriate. It was pretty exciting getting over a few spots and one of Tammy’s tires is definitely missing some rubber.

The campground once again sported amazing views and cold, blistery winds. Four brave souls set up tents and the rest of us slept in the vehicles. Saturday morning Derek was able to break enough ice from the water jugs to get some liquid water to cook breakfast. The organization took some time as the number of forms we had to sign and the “don’t do” orientation was detailed. Jennifer and Phyllis lead restoration teams of four to work in Virgin Cave. William was the team leader of four and sketcher to work at Emerald Cave. The leaders graciously allowed me to join the Emerald team as the vertical drop was less intimidating and physical.

The hike to Emerald Cave took several hours. To capture the rugged beauty and magnificent terrain in pictures is impossible. William sitting at the cave entrance was about to rig the rope and turned sideways only to impale an agave tip under his knee cap. He completed the trip but was in sharp pain the entire time. Tammy and Mark read instruments and I think Tammy gained some confidence in this skill. I did inventory and think the cave should be renamed “Dog-Tooth Spar” cave. William pointed out a couple large crinkle blister formations. It is not a large cave but extremely delicate as many formations and calcite crusts are brittle and weathered. In our four hours of work, we only set four stations because the sketching was intricate and complicated. Also Tammy worked to determine a way to set stations along the opposite wall without damaging the thin, brittle crust. One lone bat circled our efforts although there was much guano and bat ceiling stains. Again, the most prominent feature is the large amount of dog tooth spar. We finished the hike back in the dark using headlamps and I kept wondering how the last part of the hike, “follow the road” could in anyway be described as a road.

It was another cold camp night. Two teams returned by 8pm and ate supper. We were worried about the last team which arrived about 10pm. Derek and I waited sitting in camp chairs with the car somewhat cutting the wind sporting with all our winter gear and finally adding bedrolls on top. Michael and Joseph were not phased at all by the long day and happy with their adventure. It was a quick meal and the guys treated themselves by running the heater in the truck to warm up. Sunday morning leaders decided just to haul water to Virgin for a future restoration trip. William was still in pain and he so wanted to continue but personally I’m glad the Tuckers “called it a day.” I only hiked to an overlook of the cave to take pictures. Michael and Joseph retrieved their vertical gear at the bottom of the drop and Derek (with the fast group) took water to the back of the cave. We were able to leave camp by 2pm which was our goal.

I think LAG members will be welcome in the future to continue restoration projects.

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