There is an impassable rock choke inside the Zarathustra entrance to Simmons Mingo cave. The choke is not visible or evident from the surface outside that entrance, and the entrance still blows air, giving the false impression that it is open. This according to Carl Pierce of Pittsburgh Grotto.
It makes the traditional through trip impractical.
On Saturday July 30, Brian Young, Mike Schirato, Mike Kern, and Pierce entered the Historic entrance at 11:50am after checking the Zarathustra entrance. The Zarathustra entrance was blowing air and looked open when they checked it. At about 8:00pm they reached the Zarathustra entrance from inside the cave. Quite a bit of water was coming in this normally drippy area of the cave, and they suspected it was, or had been, raining, possibly heavily, during the day. There is a rope hanging into the cave from a little room at the bottom of the Zarathustra entrance, which you use as a handline to get up a loose gravelly slope into that little room. However, the hole where the handline drops through from that little room into the cave is blocked by a rock fall choke, and is impassable. You can climb part way up the handline and see where it comes through the choke. As all of the rocks are over your head at this point, disturbing them from inside the cave would be highly unwise. Carl's team turned around and headed back through the cave to the Historic entrance, and exited just after 7:00am Sunday morning, over 19 hours after entering the cave, roughly double the time planned. Water purification tablets that Brian brought enabled them to drink water from the very active stream in the cave, which kept them from getting dangerously dehydrated. They noted that the already high level of the stream on the way into the cave was even higher on the way out, reinforcing thoughts that it had been raining, possibly heavily, while they were in the cave (thundershowers were in the forecast). At no point was the water dangerously high but the waterfalls in the stream were a bit more tricky to traverse on the way out, as you had to stay mostly above the gushing water.
While it is possible that this rock fall blockage occurred during the time from when they checked the Z-entrance to when they got there from inside the cave, it seems more likely that something changed in that little room at some point prior to their visit, resulting in the rock fall and opening up some other way for air to get through. Maybe the storms earlier in the month?
Anyone have thoughts?