Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Some local NM caving

A little bit of local NM caving. 
4/24/2016 Windows of the Earth.  This may have been underground but it was a "cave" made by an artist by digging out the sandstone.  Tours are given but it's expensive for what it is.  Also, the company really dropped the ball on our group tour.  It's a woow woow hooty snooty kinda place.  You can't do drop in's so IMO it's not worth the time to get there and the $25 person for the tour.

It was just a few rooms with some neat carvings on the walls.  It was nice but the other carved caves are nice and what the pictures are from.  Why do they show us the nice pictures of the other caves when we cant go to them?  Bait and Switch.

5/14/2016 Buckman Cave.

Looking down the abyss.  It's about 80' to the midd level but there is another 30 - 40 feet to drop to get to the bottom level where the back door is.
Lois negotiating the rocky obstacles.
 Someone coming down.  From the lower level it took 125' of rope.
Exiting the back door.  The cave can get cold so bring a sweatshirt.

This cave was impressive.  The walls were about 10 to 15 feet apart with the celling 200 feet above.  Worth seeing but a vertically sporting cave.  The front door is a exposed scramble.  To go from the mid level to the lower level we all did it with descending gear but it can be climbed down with a hand line but only for good rock climbers.

Then to get to the main part of the cave you have to squeeze and stem down a 10 foot drop.  I literally had to exhale to make the squeeze.  On both trips there was someone not willing to do it.  Someone has died here because they went the wrong way over the rock rather than try the squeeze.

This trip took all day even though the cave may only be 600' long.

5/21/2016 AJ Cave.

AJ Cave is one of the newer caves they found at El Malpis.  The meeting for the South West Regional cave organization was held in Bonito Canyon near El Map Park.  The parks Cave manager along with other park personnel worked with us to select a proper working project that many of us could assist them with.

 The project was to survey the Moss gardens of several lava tubes.  We got to visit a few caves that are normally off limits. 

Moss gardens are cool!

They are very special.  They are a type of moss that lives in the Artic!  Its special because this is the desert!!!  The lava tubes create small environments for them to live in.  The lava tubes are cold year round.  They have ice in them.  They are also humid.  Moss needs sunlight so the moss can only live near the entrance or under skylights.
 This lava tube had interesting minerals.
 There was some squeezing here and there in very sharp breakdown.
A very rare calcite formation in a lava tube! 

There are over 450 lava tubes in the park and not to long ago you could visit them but now they changed the rules and only let people in 3 of the caves there.  Its very frustrating.  The only way we can visit some of these caves is to go during the week on a work trip and even they you may just sit there at the entrance and not get to go in.

The grotto is working on a MOU so we can do work at some of these but it is very slow going.

Lots of nice ice formations.
It was cold in the cave.

5/29/2016 Tripple Engle (GypKap)

Tehnuka, Blake and I were the only ones this GypKap trip.  I had planned on going Saturday and Sunday but because of possible travel for work I was only able to go on Sunday and Monday.  Monday didn't happen because rain moved in Sunday afternoon.
 Blake got the ranchers permission to visit Triple Engle Cave.  Saturday Blake and Tehnuka visited this cave only to the first drop and they saw baby coyotes in one of the entrances but we did not see them Sunday.
The drop required some careful stemming to get down.  I went first and since Tehnuka was light I had her stand on my shoulders to navigate down the 10 foot drop.

Once down she and I continued on for about only 20 minutes.  Blake waited for us at the top of the drop.  I had to turn sideways to fit through the meandering passage.  It was slow going because of a few inches of water in several spots.  We tried to keep our boots dry.

The Gypsum was interesting.  The picture above is "Chicken wire" gypsum.  Very cool.
 There were a bunch of dead baby rabbits in the cave.  Poor little guys.  They did smell a little.

We saw a couple of spotted salamanders in the cave. 

We left the cave and went back to the cars.  I went across the road to look at the other entrance to the cave and got lucky to see this owl.  It was supper nice to see!

Back at camp we saw the rain coming and also on our phones we could see red and purple storm cells coming our way.

The caves are sinks so that's were the water goes and besides that just a little rain turns the roads to mud making it impossible to pass.  We are many miles in the middle of no where.  There is nothing around!
 So we got out before the rain and headed north towards home.

There was no rain about an hour north near Vaughn so we stopped to check out some leads.  They didn't pan out but they were still neat to see.
 You can see there is nothing around!

The most dangerous part of the trip was almost stepping on this guy.  The wind was blowing all the time very hard so we didn't hear him.  He moved just before we were about to step on him.

We stopped in Santa Rosa for Subway then finished the drive home.  I spent about 9 hours in the car for 1 hour of cave time.

6/5/2016 Buckman Cave.

I went back to Buckman cave with Aimee and some others to check out the front door entrance.  The front door requires a short exposed scramble up the cliff.
 A sign greets you.  It probably should be more strongly worded as there are many places to fall.

It requires some fair skill climbing up and down rocks.  Two places are tricky.  The climb down from the mid level to the lower area that leads to the back door and the tight 10 foot stem to the main part of the cave.  One person has died there.
 Since everyone but me had harnesses we decided it was safer to rappel from the mid to the lower level.

Here Aimee is setting up a rope.  Ana helped me with an improvised harness made from the webbing I had with me.  It worked well and I borrowed a rack to rappel down.  Once you started to descend  you could see that it could be climbed down easy enough except for the last 8 feet.  From there is an old hand line that people use.
 Here we are waiting for our turns squeezing up through the back door.  There are several climbs and squeezes you need to be able to do to get out.
A view of the canyon with rain in the distance.

If I could keep caving like this I might call it "caving" but with no caves planned till October (Monday Alabaster trips don't count) I'll forget how to cave.  Maybe there will be some more trips planned at tonight's Sandia Grotto meeting.