As we stepped out of the car, light snow was falling. Not the best sign. The nine of us changed into caving gear as our fingers went numb, then walked the icy path to the entrance of the cave. Kelly had cared about the age of the cave, but was not patient enough to stay by the wooden sign that explained it. The day was just too cold.
We reached a depression on the side of the hill, with a tiny hole in the bottom. That was the main entrance, no larger than half a manhole. Itaru encouraged the beginners to lead the way, in the MIT tradition. Kelly descended first. Shortly after we started a headcount, which we would repeat no fewer than 10 times throughout the trip. The trip progressed downward. We started standing, then crouching, then bending lower, then crawling on our knees, then crawling on our stomachs through the mud. We reached the lake room after a relatively stort time, then waded through the water and explored the narrow side passage that leads away from it. Itaru knew that it was a dead end, but he let people explore it anyway. We reached the dead end, then returned to the Lakeroom. We had lunch and turned out the lights for about 5 minutes.
We walked back towards the main entrance, but Jes and Kelly had to pee really bad. We gave them a few meters' clearance, and they went through the cumbersome procedure of stripping off all their equipment and clothes to pee into the running stream. We went back, looking for the Thook passage near the main entrance, and finally found it. It looked like one person could barely fit, but all of us crawled into it. Chris hurt his shoulder and couldn't pass the Chest Compressor 20 meters later. He and Itaru returned to the main entrance, intent on waiting for us to go out Thook and back through the outside. The rest of us continued to the Thook exit, not sure that we were in the right passage, but eventually made it out. It was at least 45 continuous minutes of crawling with no room to turn around, until we reached the exit and climbed into the dark, snowy dark.
At this point we got lost. We saw two markers for the NCC, but failed to follow them in the right direction. After 30 minutes of walking in circles (literally, to our despair), we finally reached the markers near the Thook entrance and followed the right way. Jess had considered climbing a tower to look around. We found the shell of a car, and a Danger sign. It was a bit ominous. It was cold. Really, really cold, and much colder than the relatively comfortable cave. We finally found the main entrance, Chris and Itaru. We were too cold to enter again as we'd planned, and Brian was starting to show the shivers of mild hypothermia. We went back to the cars, changed as we could with completely numb fingers, and had Vietnamese food in Albany. Kelly and Daniel were still wearing the wetsuits, which made the old couple next to us wonder what the hell was going on. All in all, awesome trip. The newcomers signed up as soon as the next trip was announced.
Report by Daniel Martin