MDC Camp Trip ZWR survey 8/11-8/12 2018
Participants: Irina Eftimie, Nathan Roser, Abbe Hamilton
Entered: 1:00 am 8/11, Exited: a leisurely 1:00 pm 8/12.
We pursued two leads that Scott and Stevan had bolted and rigged previously, both off the Pulpit Room. There is an ongoing and spirited debate about whether the squeezy crawl from Titanic to Pulpit is actually an easier route than climbing the spoogey Titanic slope-rope, ascending the bolt climb rope at ZW8 and traversing over to the Pulpit Room from above.
The first lead, ZWR, was off ZWF34 (February 2018 work weekend survey) over a ~26’ pit with a nice rimstone pool at the bottom. We tied into an additional set station on the far side of the pit but could not read the station number. The approach to the tight keyhole lead involved a heroically rigged traverse along the edge of the pit and a 17’ ascent. The pool was situated as to make excellent plunking sounds as mud and rock tumbled down on the climb. Surveyed passage extended 131’ back (16 stations) along a sinuous, 2’ wide passage with a floor channel. There were several places where a switchback in the passage coincided with a breakdown block or some other projection that could only be overcome with wild contortions and multilingual cursing. Station ZWR12 marked a narrowing of the fissure to about 1’ wide. We shuffled each survey team member up to the constriction (climbing over one another to reorder ourselves). To the dismay of all parties, I was able to find a way to climb the fissure about 7’ (with much shoulder-standing and words of encouragement) up into a higher, marginally wider section of passage. Irina followed, Nathan could not. This upper level was well-decorated with soda straws and flowstone, and the terminal shot of ZWR16 marks a too-tight formation choke with moderate airflow.
Irina de-rigged the ZWR drop and traverse on the way back to ZWF34. From there, we dropped the Grand Finale pit and ascended a second, shorter rope into the second lead of the day, about 30’ up the wall of Grand Finale. This was an extremely steep, sandy, hands-and-knees tunnel that ran 20’ up to a giant boulder, embedded in mud. The boulder plugged the entire passage except for a scant 3-4” gap above, and the space beyond it is large, dark and echoey. Irina and Nathan halfheartedly swung a hammer at it for awhile, and I hopped back into the Pulpit room and then back up to the ZWF34 pit to listen for any evidence of sound connection. There was no apparent connection: the void on the other side of the boulder appears to be separate from surveyed passage, likely a level between the Pulpit room below and the ZWF34 pit above. Some other means of persuasion will be necessary to get the boulder out of the way for the sweet booty beyond. We left that 20’ tunnel unsurveyed and the rope rigged, and ascended Grand Finale for the second time that day (what a stellar pit!), reconvened with the Scott and Stevan team at the top of the January 2018 bolt climb (ZW8) to redistribute bolts, ropes and etriers. Some were left above the ZW8 rope, the rest returned to camp.
Leads killed: ZWF34 (the ZWR passage)
Leads remaining: The boulder choke in a tunnel halfway up the Grand Finale.
Other needs: at least two new water jugs as one in the Pinnacle Room and one in the Columbia Canyon water sources are broken enough to be ineffective.
There is a moment of profound stillness halfway up the Puppet Buster rope. We are all battered and sore from the night and day of caving that came before. Nathan is still halfway up the upper rope by the time I make it to the rebelay. I clip into the midway bolt and wait as he climbs, heavy breathing and a periodic clink of vertical gear the only sound of his progress. My roped perch is unusually comfortable. I give weight to my chest strap and recline in the [totally subjective] security generated by visual contact with the bolt supporting me. The moment is mundane: there is nothing to do but wait in the stillness, observing the ascender inches from my face. The moment is extravagant: suspended on a wall, fifty feet in either direction from a place to stand, hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth.
I contemplate the ceiling fifty, sixty feet above with Nathan’s figure suspended slightly in the foreground. A steady, regular chain of sparkly beads fall toward my light, just beyond my craned head. The drips pass beyond me, down through the darkness. I extend my arm and interrupt their passage with my palm. The ceiling is smooth and pleasantly scooped, a simplification of the jagged and rock-strewn floor far below. Below me is a breakdown block the size of a camper with no apparent origin on the wall or ceiling. I see the low glow of Irina’s light from the bottom of the lower rope, beyond the suspended breakdown blocks and fifty feet below. She begins to sing a wordless, vaguely classical tune. The resonance in the giant, otherwise silent and still passage compliments the piece. My only purpose is to listen to one friend struggle and the other sing. Usually it is easy to forget that 99.9% of MDC’s existence is in absolute silence and stillness. Right now, this is easier to conceptualize. The moment is pedestrian.
The moment is exceptional. This respite has in it the endless feeling of a geologic time scale, but lacks the associated loneliness.
Irina’s song, the only distinct word of which was “joy”, has morphed to “Baby One More Time”. I join in as Nathan grunts and growls his way into the Puppet Buster. The moment is over. Our egress continues.