March HGRP, 2012

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March HGRP
Location High Guads
Author William Tucker
Date March 3-4, 2012
A view from inside the cave

The March, 2012 HGRP was an opportunity to finish the survey at Emerald cave. At least, that was the lofty hope. On Saturday, March 3, 2012, we gathered at Virgin camp for instructions, permit and agreement signing and the necessary safety briefing. I should have paid more attention to the safety briefing.

I was assigned to continue work on the survey of Emerald Cave with the hope of completing the survey. I thought that there was still too much cave to finish; but, it could be close. Tammy Tucker, Mark Bulman, Lee Ann Dean and I were assigned the task. The rest went to Virgin cave for restoration work.

The landscape on the way to the cave

We left camp at 10:00 AM to drive to the parking area from which we would begin the hike. The hike is difficult and takes about 2 hours as there is no trail and the terrain is steep. We arrived at the cave and sat to eat lunch. After eating, I planned to stand to go to rig the rope and promptly flopped my right leg over onto an agave. It stabbed me in the side of my knee missing my knee pad. The spine went through a tendon and into the cartilage behind my patella (knee cap). It caused intense pain and made my entire leg cramp up. It was very difficult to get my leg to straighten back out and required help from Tammy to do so. Once straight, it was still painful but not unbearable so we determined that we could continue with our task so long as I did not bend my knee.

We rigged the rope around a small juniper some distance from the entrance and rappelled in. We began the day's survey at A2; but, this time went toward the back of the cave along the left wall. This part of the cave is complex and highly decorated with fragile decorations making survey difficult and slow. We flagged a large guano deposit with red/white flagging tape to discourage anyone from stepping into it and disturbing it. We noted major boxwork on the wall and for a few stations there were large, beautifully formed crinkle blisters probably of hydromagnesite.

We have seen at least one bat on every trip to this cave and this trip was no exception. One bat was seen in the cave; but extensive guano deposits, bat stains on the ceiling and bones in the popcorn says that there at least used to be large numbers of bats here. We have not seen them in any significant numbers but have also not seen the cave in all seasons.

Not wanting to try to climb the cliffs after dark, we began preparing to leave at 5:30 PM after having made it to the back of the cave. We still need to deal with the right side of the back passage probably with splay shots from the left side as the right side is even more fragile and inaccessible. We left the cave at 6 PM and hiked back to the car and drove to camp arriving there at 8:00 PM.

As my leg was causing problems (I could not bend it without being unable to straighten it again), it was decided that it would be best for me not to work on Sunday so the Emerald survey remains incomplete.

Update: it took two weeks before I was able to bend my leg; but, it is now basically back to normal. I have a new respect for those prickly things in the Guads.