Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

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Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby tonyjardine » Apr 1, 2014 8:26 pm

I'm going back to Knoxville over summer break and there is this cave I've been wanting to explore ever since I was in grade school. The only problem is that the entrance is a 35 ft. drop (measured). I would really like to explore this cave since I feel like not many people have been in it because of the difficult entry-way. Nonetheless, I do not have repelling equipment nor do I have ascending equipment.

So I thought about getting a 40 ft. rope ladder, attaching it to a metal beam which will go across the hole, and using steaks to hold the metal beam into the ground. That begs the safety question, and furthermore the question of whether there is a better idea any of you all can come up with. I figure I would also anchor a safety rope too, just in case the ladder fails, I won't be injured/die.

This is a sketch of what I hope to do:
Image
Image

Anyways, tell me what you think of this plan and if you have a better idea as to what I could do to get down there. Caving is a major passion of mine and I've been doing it since I was 12. Thanks guys!!!
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby GroundquestMSA » Apr 1, 2014 9:35 pm

Aren't you worried that animals might come along and eat the steak while you're down there?

What you're suggesting would probably work, but I honestly think you would be better off learning to rappel and climb. Do you already have a beam and rope ladder? If not, the cost of these, and the increasingly dear steaks, would likely be enough for a bare bones SRT kit, which would be sufficient to get you down and up a 35' pit.

Some real questions/concerns: How big is the pit (diameter)? How will you get on the ladder in the first place? How will the safety rope be utilized? Rope ladders are a pain to climb.

Another thing to consider should be bringing some experienced vertical cavers with you. It shouldn't be hard to find some folks able and willing to loan you vertical gear and teach you how to use it.
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby DawgsgoCaving » Apr 1, 2014 9:55 pm

First, just to echo what Groundquest said, if you have the funds and resources for carrying out that plan it may be more worth it just to buy a seat harness, brake rack, 50' rope, and ascender system. I assume there is a tree for anchoring somewhere within the cave's proximity.

Still, that plan could work. I would think about wearing a harness with a crampon to attach to the rope ladder. I've found clipping into the rungs when I'm doing outdoor high rope activities makes me feel a lot safer amidst all the swinging. Definitely watch how much tension is on the rope ladder too.
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby GroundquestMSA » Apr 1, 2014 10:09 pm

Just to clarify what I mean by a bare bones vertical kit, I did my first few pits with a used climbing harness, an ATC and Prusik loops. You can have all of that stuff for $40. You won't have what you need for deep caves or frequent vertical caving, but you will be able to explore your pit safely. I made some mistakes that could have been potentially dangerous, but these are easily avoided. Read the On Rope section of this forum. Follow the links. Learn stuff, practice it, then see what's down there!
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby tonyjardine » Apr 1, 2014 10:41 pm

Yeah its actually on an abandoned construction site so there are really only some shrubs around it--no trees. Also, I know how to repel, I've done it quite a few times, but I would be going with my 54 yr old father whose been wanting to see this cave for longer than I have, so I figure this is a cheaper option. Plus, since there isn't anything to anchor on except dirt and rocks, I figure this is my best option. Failed to mention that though.....
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby paul » Apr 2, 2014 6:23 am

I would say your setup of using a strong bar which is much wider than the hole would work for suspending the ladder from, no problem. In caving, we treat a ladder as something which could fail (and it isn't a rare occurrence either!) and is therefore not part of the safety system. You MUST have a safety rope and the anchor for that MUST be bombproof.

If the hole isn't too large, you could make a strong tripod constructed from scaffold poles and clips and suspend the ladder from that. This would make it easier to get on and off as you would be above the level of the ground. But again, you MUST use a safety rope and MUST have a safety rope and the anchor for that MUST be bombproof.
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby caver.adam » Apr 2, 2014 8:23 am

One of the questions I'm left with is whether you're making this roper ladder or buying one.
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby caver9999 » Apr 2, 2014 8:45 am

I just sent you a PM Adam. Email me at caver9999@hotmail.com and maybe I can help you out.
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby tamarmole » Apr 2, 2014 10:24 am

If you are using a ladder you want the top of it well back from the lip of the hole otherwise it will be a nightmare to get off and on.

If there are no natural belays make some stakes from angle iron and drive them well into the ground.
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby tncaver » Apr 3, 2014 7:27 am

[quote="tamarmole"]If you are using a ladder you want the top of it well back from the lip of the hole otherwise it will be a nightmare to get off and on.

Judging from your drawing, your method looks like an accident waiting to happen. Having the ladder attache to a pole in the middle of the hole is dangerous. Getting to and from the ladder would be very difficult. Getting back out would require acrobatics. It is much safer for the ladder to rest against or near the edge of the pit and if possible, attach to something slightly higher than the opening of the pit. A 35 foot rope ladder can be difficult to climb. As was mentioned earlier, rappel and climbing a single fixed rope is a much safer and easier method to use.

You say you are at a construction site. If you can drive near the entrance with a truck that has a "safe" attachment point for the rope, that will
solve your anchor problem. Also as mentioned earlier, having some experienced vertical cavers with you for the trip will increase your safety.
There are many experienced cavers in the Knoxville area. Go to a local grotto to find experienced vertical cavers (you can find a local grotto on the NSS main page where it says Find a Caving Club).
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby Shane S » Apr 3, 2014 12:53 pm

It says that you are from Cookville TN. Ok you are in TAG so finding an experienced caver to assist you should be easy. I'm two hours away and I have lots of equipment, but it would be a couple of weeks before I could free up some time. I'd make the drive just to drop a could be virgin pit. But seriously if you google grotto's "caving orginizations for the NSS" for your area, you should be able to connect with local cavers near by. I'm out of town for the next two weeks. If you haven't had luck by two weeks shoot me a PM and I'll drive up and help you bounce it.

good Luck.
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby graveleye » Apr 4, 2014 7:36 am

There are lot's of cavers in Cookeville.
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby tncaver » Apr 4, 2014 8:46 am

graveleye wrote:There are lot's of cavers in Cookeville.


The cave mentioned is near Knoxville.
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby graveleye » Apr 4, 2014 9:45 am

Right, but the poster's info says he is in Cookeville. I just thought that might make it easier for him to round up some cavers to help out.
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Re: Is this a good idea for getting into a cave?

Postby gindling » Apr 4, 2014 10:42 am

I think you may be referring to TAG's Finest located behind Walgreens. Is this picture the cave in question? With that lovely orange fencing that the Corp of Engineers likes to put around caves to help us find them!

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