Clarksville Cave and Ladder Dig Cave - 3/19/2012

Cavers: Amanda, dlaw, Jes, Keja, Mitch, dRachel, Steven, Tauntaun, TJ

Met at the SE corner of EC at ~8:35am. Everyone showed up about on time; divided into cars (drivers Mitch and dRachel, even though Mitch was discovered to be rather under the weather - ha, what a chuamp). dRachel drove the musicals car. Cars were dubbed Goldfish and Redfish.

Goldfish missed the correct exit off the NY State Thruway. We decided to meet at the cave. Goldfish hit up a gas station and took some smaller roads and still beat Redfish. We double checked our gear, discovered that dRachel had forgotten her wetsuit, and ate some lunch while waiting for Redfish.

Redfish arrived, we got geared up and walked to the Ward entrance. Got inside to the Big Room and started exploring the squeezes and any other crawlable spaces on our way to the Lake Room. On our way we excitedly started to crawl up a rather promising-looking side path, but Jes yelled back to us, "You just found Thook! We'll come back to that later." We also passed a pretty little crevasse we fondly dubbed the Cave Vagina.

On our way to the Lake Room we passed a group or two of other explorers, who unfortunately carried with them cigarettes, beer, and no gear. Gross. We finally got to the Lake Room and we spread out to explore every corner of the watery chamber. Some of us explored a narrow squeeze that cornered sharply like a V, another that was wide but super low and full of large loose rock - the second squeeze was possibly the Twinkle Room? dRachel suggested chimneying a submerged tunnel that circled around the far edge of lake room, and Tauntaun couldn't figure it out coming from the lake side, but then figured it out coming from the other end. dlaw, TJ, and Tauntaun found a small plant at the mouth of the squeeze suspected to be Twinkle Room.

We all reconvened by the side of the lake to take a snack break and turn off all of our lights for some quality "true darkness" time. It got nice and quiet for a good 15 seconds before Jes shattered the silence with a hearty belch - hawt. After that we made our way back to Thook, just as Jes promised, and crawled our way through the passage until it branched. We decided to split the group to take the two different paths to the exit. Due to some confusion in map reading, the group that wanted to go with less chest compression actually ended up exiting along the Chest Compressor route. But everyone made it out successfully, and Jes was able to get to the surface before she pee'd in her wetsuit.

Once everyone was above ground, we headed back to the Ward entrance to try to explore in the direction of the Gregory entrance, but another, very large group was slowly entering the cave at the Ward entrance when we got back to it. Not wanting to deal with the crowds, we decided to check out the nearby Ladder Cave, a large gaping hole in the ground with visible ice still sitting on the bottom. We decided that the extremely sketchy ladder there wasn't worth using, so we decided to set up a haul system with the surprisingly extensive amount of webbing in Keja's pack. While most of the group focused on warming back up, TJ, Mitch, and Keja were lowered into the cave, after much fuss about how to set up the haul system.

At this point we were running low on daylight and energy, so everyone above ground huffed and puffed to get Keja above ground, then he joined the haul crew and managed to get the other two out of there in less time than we took to haul him up - showoff. And to continue the story of how Keja won 'wilderness man of the trip', when one of the knots in the haul system just wouldn't come undone, he whipped out his foot-long wilderness knife to get the job done.

By now we were all starving for red meat, so we got on the highway and drove til we saw an Outback Steakhouse. Much cow was consumed, and there was great rejoicing in the Goldfish and Redfish.

Trip report by Tauntaun