NOTE: Trip Report from Scott Thomson from going on a group climbing trip in Tennessee where they took some time to do a little caving away from the group. This is the second time they ditched the group to do a cave during the trip.
It was back to the mountains! Time to “go climbing” which of course meant stealing away as much time as my conscience would allow to go caving instead. This time we arrived early on Friday, so would have a decent day for the kid to get in some bouldering and allowing me to block out some time Saturday morning before another bit of climbing and Sunday before getting on the road.
Up super early on Saturday we got down the road, ate a mighty breakfast and parked up. I’ve got no pics until we were at the bottom of the pit because I was busy trudging up a hill and rigging the drop which was a bit of an involved process. There’s a couple ways to rig this pit but we went with the DCG Patented Free Hanging Drop Method which involves a main rig point back from the pit and using a redirect at a tree at the lip to get a nice clean rope path. We also ran a second 100 foot line with our main to use as an approach and “service” line. It was also so I could change over to it on the ascent because we were going to be tandem climbing out and I wanted the second line for topping out. With Holly as our trusty top crew in charge of the emergency contact info and cell service we tested our walkie talkies and got on with the job.
This pit was incredible. With a nice sized entrance and sunny skies it was lit all the way down which definitely added the exposure factor. After some slight nerves at the lip we both found that as soon as we were on line we could just enjoy the descent and take in the incredible space. The “pit” was less of an enclosed hole and more of a giant canyon with a roof over most of it, the feeling was more akin to rappelling into a cathedral. It’s a gorgeous entrance.
Three screen captures from a video to give a sense of scale of the 160(+) foot pit and our weedy little rope. Big brightly lit pits are definitely a new experience for us and this one had us mainly just “woooooow”ing and “wooooah”ing as we poked around. I know I’ve already compared it to a cathedral, but this really did feel like an architectural space where so many other caves have felt like, well, a cave.
There’s apparently a little bit of cave at the bottom, but for safety reasons and needing to get back to the climbing team this was just supposed to be a quick pit bounce. Striker, however, has a hard time not being drawn onwards, and a fixed rope leading on couldn’t be passed up. Mainly out of principle he popped up the rope, looked around to at least ease his mind that he had gone into the cave at the bottom and then rappelled back down.
There were plenty of sights at the bottom. Lots of nooks and crannies to poke into and a museum of unfortunate things that had ended up taking a faster trip to the bottom, but time was short and we had a climb to get on with. So we bid the bottom farewell and got ourselves on rope.
To speed things up and be able to enjoy each others company and encouragement we chose to tandem climb out. I think this was a great call and I found the climb much more enjoyable than if we had each been alone trudging up the line. There was a nice rhythm to things which really broke it up and gave little rests to look around and enjoy the surroundings as well as look down and enjoy being in such a wonderful place with my kid.
Photo from the top crew after I’d swapped to the other line. This was to avoid jacking around the main rope too much while topping out. It also allowed me to pop the main line out of the redirect so the kid could continue straight up and out while I derigged.
The funniest part, for me at least, was that between our mighty breakfast before and a fantastic lunch after we were running a bit late getting back to the climbing area. Instead of heading back to camp to change, we just went straight to the boulders leading to the image of the kid climbing in his coveralls which I found hilarious. Gotta represent the NSS at all times yo. The kid spent the rest of the day bouldering, then capped it playing “manhunt” (which apparently is a sorta tag played in the dark where you run full speed into rocks and ditches) with the other kids until finally running out of steam well after nightfall. Not that it’s a new phenomenon to observe, but I’m still amazed by the size of the battery in that kid.