Dispatch: Caving in NorCal

April 14, 2006

by Wiley Davis

"Do you want to go first?" This is what he asked me."Sure. Why not." I said. I didn't want to go first. "It's just a little hole." I threw the coil of rope into the horizontal tube and followed it with my feet. The tube was so small that my size twelve feet were unable to point upright and had to be turned sideways to fit.

John, the experienced caver among us, and leader of the expedition to Papua New Guinea that we were all here training for, said "It's about ten feet long. Go in feet first, kick the rope ahead of you. You'll know you're at the end when you feel the bottom drop out. Clip in to the rope there and rappel down. There should be enough rope."

Then he disappeared, off to find another hole. Halfway through the tube I started wondering what he meant by "there should be enough rope." I had never been caving before. After ten minutes inching on my back through the tube I decided that I should have turned my head to the left instead of the right. It was too late to change that now.

Yellow and black millipedes crawled slowly, in inch from my nose. They don't bite, but I had to force them from my mind. Small discomforts and irrational fears quickly result in panic when you are crammed into a tiny space.

In the tube I could only go forward or backward and whichever way I chose, it would take considerable time before I could get out. Relaxation and a giddy sense of humor are important pieces of gear to bring along.

"How's it going down there?" Jim yelled. He was only fifteen feet away but I could not see him and he was a world apart. There was nothing he could do to help with the rope that was tangled around a root running across the tube. I stretched and fumbled with my fingertips to free it up.

Twenty minutes later I had traveled ten horizontal feet. I heard the whipping sound of the rope as it plummeted. My feet no longer had a surface to belay them. I listened intently but never heard the rope hit bottom. Luckily, It was knotted ten feet from the end.

When my feet found ample footholds I slid out of the tube completely and clipped my rappel device onto the rope and descended into the vertical shaft, saying goodbye to the outside world and hoping that the rope reached bottom.


One Response to “Dispatch: Caving in NorCal”

  1. What is a crackerjack adventurer? It’s not in Wikipedia or other online dictionaries.

    Thank You,


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