CRF Spring 2012

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CRF Spring 2012
Location Carlsbad Caverns
Author William Tucker
Date June 9-11, 2012

On the weekend of June 9 - 10, 2012, Tammy and I were privileged to lead a CRF sponsored expedition in Carlsbad Caverns. Eleven experienced cavers helped with restoration projects during the weekend. This was a reschedule of the traditional Memorial Day weekend expedition so as not to conflict with the SWR 50th anniversary celebration.


Scientific apparatus removal

William Tucker and Jimmie Worrell removing scientific apparatus from the wall above the Grape Arbor

It had been mentioned to me on a few occasions that there were some old scientific apparatuses bolted to the wall above the Grape Arbor that the Park would like to have removed. These devices were bolted across cracks and were designed to detect small movements. They had long ago been disconnected and the cabling was piled and tangled haphazardly below the location. Lead, rusty washers, steel, cabling and various other hazards to the cave were associated with these devices not to mention that they were unsightly. Access to the upper most of these devices required a bit of climbing. So, on Saturday morning, Jimmie Worrell, Jennie McDonough and I set out to tackle this project. We took: survey equipment, various socket wrenches and screw drivers, cams, nuts and other climbing friends, a dynamic rope (which we did not use), and aiders including an etrier. I planned to aid climb with Jimmie on belay and Jennie taking photos and surveying the location from the nearest known station.

When we got there, it was apparent that the rope would not be needed and I could climb with a couple of cams in the crack and stand on the etrier while the bolts were removed. There was only a small amount of exposure if you did not consider missing the ledge and falling to the next level so I felt pretty safe. This is what we did and the only real problem we had was trying to avoid dropping any of the stacks of washers which were between the apparatuses and the wall on some of the bolts. The rock is heavily corroded in that location and the bolts were loose in their holes. The expansion inserts were relatively easy to remove once the bolts were out. I question just how effective these devices would have been considering the slack in the bolts but maybe they had loosened over time.

After removing the devices and gathering them and our gear, we hiked to the Cave Resources Office and presented the whole lot to Stan. Then we hiked back into the cave to join the other restoration project already in progress.

On our way back in, Jimmie did a good job of easing the mind of an apprehensive woman who did not want to get on the elevator. She was very afraid that it might stop part way down. Jimmie did a good job of talking with her pleasantly and reassuringly. Though obviously agitated, she made it to the bottom and was relieved to see the Lunchroom.

The Channel

The beginnings of the Channel Project near the shortcut in the Big Room

The Channel is a new CRF project which was started on this weekend. It is a large area in the middle of the Big Room. The trail is built right over it and ideally should be replaced with a bridge -- maybe someday when we have finished our cleanup. The channel was full of old trail sediment and a lot of debris including broken glass, coins, wood chips, concrete, construction materials, wire and almost anything else you could imagine. On Saturday, the team concentrated on removing and bagging the debris on the off chance that some of it might be significant or historic. Only one piece of possibly historic debris was found, a ticket stub which was left in-situ and documented. We removed a lot of concrete in the form of mortar and many rocks which did not belong in the area. Most of the concrete was loose; but some was hiding old disconnected wiring. We had to hike out on Saturday as there were long lines at the elevators.

On Sunday, we attacked the Channel project with gusto and began the process of hauling the built-up trail sediments, rocks, concrete, etc. to the quarry. We carried out 39 buckets of sediments by hand 6 or 8 buckets at a time. At the end of the day, I estimated that we were halfway through with the hauling project. Once the hauling is complete, the next phase in the project will be more detailed cleaning. I think one good pass with a wet/dry vacuum and then down to sprayers and fine cleaning. There is a nice pool at the back of the channel that we will have to tackle in the end.

Since this location is easily visible from the trail, we had two interpreters at all times on both sides of the Big Room to explain what we were doing. We had a lot of interest in our activities from the visitors.


We made significant progress on the channel project and I look forward to what this part of the Big Room is going to look like once this project is complete. I am glad that we got the scientific apparatuses removed and it was a fun project. We enjoyed our evenings and the bat flights together and I enjoyed spending the weekend with this fine bunch of people. Thanks to all of the participants for a successful, fun and productive expedition.


  • Kristalyn Sullivan
  • Erika Way
  • Jon Lauderbaugh
  • Jimmie Worrell
  • Amy Pence
  • Eddie Baker
  • Janice Tucker
  • Jennie McDonough
  • Bill Weston
  • Tammy Tucker
  • William Tucker