Met at the caving club office at 10:30PM after the Shakespeare show Romeo and Juliet. Grabbed caving gear and rented some stuff from MITOC, and headed over to EC. We decontaminated the ropes(280, 177) in the EC laundry room with Formula 409, packed all of our gear and headed to bed.
The first day of our trip was our driving day. We got up at 8:30AM, packed up all our gear and took off. I only had 2 hours sleep because his gf kept him up all night, so he was "hibernating" for most of the trip. We stopped for food at a Rest Area, where Noah and I impressed Dan by eating huge portions of Boston Market for breakfast. We stopped for lunch stop at Arby's in PA, and went to Walmart to shop for food for the trip. $120 worth of protein bars, cheese, bagels, peanut butter, pasta, and a fuckton of canned food later, we were back on the road.
We had brought a copy of On Rope with us, so we reviewed passing rebelays during the long drive. We listened to my Blah Blah Blah Pandora Station for the drive - until we hit West Virginia and lost 3G. That's when the country began. Around 10pm, we rolled into the field house parking lot, where we met John Harman, Jeremy, Abby, and Aaron.
The next 8 hours were spent around a camp fire drinking beer and gazing at the moon which was allegedly 50,000km closer than usual. Kyle joined us around 1AM. Dan passed out around 2AM, but the party kept going. A few fist fights and half a bottle of Evan Williams later, we were ready to hit the sacks.
We all woke up around 10pm terribly hungover. After breakfast a brief trip to the local diner Gateway, we suited up to go to Shovel Eater Cave. We stopped by John Harper (the land owner)'s house to say hi. At this point it was already past noon.
Shovel Eater Cave was about 15 minutes away from the field house, through a really rough 4x4 dirt path that Kyle masterfully navigated through. We past a bunch of sinks along the way which were apparently unexplored.
We suited up and clambered down into the cave. After a couple of hand line assisted down climbs, we reached the drops. 3 or so rappels of 20'~40' down, we gathered around the Ohio Bypass, where the first really big drop was, which lead into Harper's Canyon. This rappel required passing a rebelay. We all got pass the rebelay fine, and the cave opened up into a large cavern. Noah and I partner assisted up to the top of a large rock for some Kodak moments. From the cavern we traversed around with marginal protection from the occasional safety line. After several minutes of walking and stooping, we got to the Audio Persistance Chamber, which was this beautiful room with a gorgeous flowstone formation some 50' tall and 30' wide. We crawled further down to reach some other pretty cave formations, and then headed back to Harper's Canyon.
From there we continued down the canyon. Another 6 or so pitch's down, we reached the bottom of Germany Well, a giant 300' deep pit the size of a large dorm room. After marveling at the well, we continued to the bottom of the cave, another rappel down. We explored another 600' or so of side passage from the bottom of the cave, and started on our way back up.
The ascent was painful and slow. I got slightly lost very briefly, and Noah missed a rope dangling next to him further up. We had been in the cave much longer than we planned, so we were running pretty low on food and water, but we eventually got to the top with out too much trouble. A bat that we woke up on the way in near the entrance fell from the ceiling as Dan passed, and everyone behind him had to carefully crawl over him as we exited. It was 10:30pm when we all exited.
We returned to the field house extremely hungry, and the three of us cooked approximately 1200 calories worth of pasta and beans, and wolfed it down. I was still hungry, but then again I always am. A beer or two later we were all asleep.
Monday was our day off. We all woke up sore from the 10 hour trip with 500' of ascending on muddy rope, not to mention all the crawling and walking. We decided to go climb at Seneca rocks, a famous trad climbing location. It was a weekday, so we pretty much had the entire place for ourselves. The weather looked funny from the start, it looked like "it can't make up it's mind".Kyle and I had started climbing up the side of Humphry's Head when the wind really started hitting. We set anchors at the top and rapped down, so we could top rope what was allegedly a "Seneca 5.2", which meant it was a 5.4~5 or so. Just as I got down, the wind stopped, and the sun burst through the crowds, giving us warmth and comfort for some pleasant climbing. I eventually grew a pair and led the climb. we heard thunder just as we pulled the ropes. We quickly packed our stuff and scrambled down, and barely made it to the staircase when the rain just started hammering us. We all took off our shirts to "shower", and walked back to the car.
*Your humble narrator got lazy around here and procrastinated finishing the trip report for a year, so factual accuracy may be highly questionable beyond this point*
We were on our way to go caving the next day, when it happened. Dan's Car always had shitty breaks, we were loaded up all the way with heavy gear and Abby may have braked a little hard. Anyway, what ever happened, we were left with a smashed trunk, and a caved in radiator, stuck on the side of the road. A car shuttle and a tow truck later, we were sitting in an autoshop to hear the bad news: we might be stuck there for a couple of days. More stressed and tired than we were from Shoveleater Cave, we went to a motel and played cards and went to bed early.
We wanted to hit up one more cave before we left, so we drove south down 219 to Maxwelton Sink Cave.
After a 40' ladder climb, we dropped down into a stooping/crawling passage that developed more and more interesting formations as we got deeper.
Soda straws, stalagmites, stalactites, small columns, curtains, "cave bacon", "cave popcorn", it had pretty much everything.
We eventually got to a sketchy traverse, which we chimney climbed over, and continued down a passage with a small stream trickling down. Following the water, we got to a gaping hole, which we assumed was the waterfall. Our directions said to turn around and take the first right, so we tried the first right. We didn't see anything, so we took the second right. We still didn't see anything, so we kept on searching on our right, until we got to a mud crawl with an inch or so of standing water. I tried it, but decided that I wanted a wetsuit for it, and that I wasn't willing to lug a 280' rope down it. After exploring a bit more, we decided to go back, seeing as we had another 12 hours of driving to do. On the way back on the traverse, just as I finished the traverse, the webbing just came off one of the ends, leaving me with a free piece of webbing in my hand. Not terribly pleased with the protection I was using, I tied a new piece of webbing on the bolt, freed the traverse, and tied it back on the feature. Hopefully others will find my hand line a little more reliable. I lugged the 280' rope up the ladder, and we popped back up on to the surface. I don't remember how we got home from there, but I'm pretty sure it involved 12 hours of driving and a lot of country music.
Report by Itaru