Alaskan Caver

Alaskan Caver

Material Information

Alaskan Caver
Series Title:
Alaskan Caver
Alternate Title:
Alaska Caver
Pease, Chuck
National Speleological Society (Alaskan Cave Areas Conservation Task Force)
National Speleological Society (Glacier Grotto)
University of Alaska Southeast (School of Arts and Sciences)
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Regional Speleology ( local )
serial ( sobekcm )
United States


General Note:
Contents: The Chitistones - 1984 Chitistone Expeditions (ChEx III) - Group I: Sometime in July - Group II: August 11 Through 18 - Group III: August 18 Through 25 - Group IV: September 1 Through 4 - Survey Map of Dark Star Cave -- A Winter Chitistone Solo -- Summer 1992 Chitistone Expedition.
Open Access - Permission by Author(s)
Original Version:
Vol. 12, no. 5 (1992)
General Note:
See Extended description for more information.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
K26-00225 ( USFLDC DOI )
k26.225 ( USFLDC Handle )
4385 ( karstportal - original NodeID )

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Vot urn8 12 Number 5 Do Aleslcsn Over [ISSN 0795-04Rl3 is the f ntsmittent pub[ imti on of tba Glee1 er Grotto of the Mat4 onal Spl eologll a1 Soel sty. bpy rt&t @ $992 by the &tact or Grotto. CIPterl el a not caw rl&ted by IndivEduels or by ewer group6 aey be mpfad by other HSS hbltrrrtions prwtbd crndtt ts given to tha suthor and fhs_lVsslan_Cav_er end EI GDW 18 mnt to the Edt tor [address bePa) lack t aame arm waiLsble fm the Reeldant for 12 each. Send srHdms, lattsrst me Itma, annomranants, trfp raporta, cua uurvsys, drafngs, ~ot~grsphe~ and so Porth d+rfictLy to tha Edl tor. Oplntone expreetlad within nrn me mmemrily thorn UP Jhe Alaebgn Qevsr, the GLaclsr Grotto, or ~e NSS. ~FWP te opn to dl Intarsated In ALnskan utve dtemvery, exploration, dsseriptdon, aurvsy, mapping, PIot~grnthy, bdrology, morphology, blology, geology, history, spLeopmB(~~ and other speleean promeme, wnesrva ti on, memgment, adventurest and the Pel1 ash1 p of dleekn cwrtrs. Annml dss aes ITS for i ndlvidual or 120 for ran$Ly mwber&i p. Add I8 to dues lY lnarrrsss a1 net1 pstage I6 pBQerr6d WRP murFnca. fn@tttutlanel subserlptfons Bra $20 per volma [dx iesms). &a are due on Janmry 1 and are mnt to the Trensurer (eddresa hela], pyable to GLadsr Grotto. Those Jolning for the firnt ttms betrrsmn October ? and December 3f rtLC be mnsldeted psjd through the follafng year. Dws stmtue 1 E lndimtsd on the msil4ng label. tbettng~ are had fn Anchorage, Fai rbnkis, and Ketchf kanr aee the bek paw for i nTomet1on regssdf ng msrrtl ng tllmes end looatli ma. Officers Name Address CitY St Zip President J Rocbell, Jr 2944 bory St Anchorage AK 99508 VF Northern FEk Mauser 1466 Carr Ave F~irbanks AK 99709 VP SCentral Rschel Mays 1813 Bannister Rd Anchorage AK 99508 VF SEastern Win Allred P 0 Box 376 bines AK 99823 Secretary Jack 'Masee 1853 Wtlett Dr Anchorage AK 99507 Treasurer W Harvey Bcwers 305 S Bdett Cr Wasilla AK 99654 Edit or Curvin lktzler P 0 Bw 200738 Anchorage AK 99510 NCA Rep We KLinger P 0 Bax 537 Lesvmrth WA 98826 Conservat'nJimFerguaon POBa20908 Juneau AK99802 Rogmair JohnJansen 7814ffapmarCir AnchorageAK99518 !Xast mair Gary sonumberg U77 Pond Reef Rd KescUn AX 99901 Hame Work 277-7150 277-7l50 456-6953 452-1414 276-0138 276-0138 KHNS 762020 562-0417 344-8587 3762294 3732247 333-8766 786-1804 1509) 548-5480 463-2690 465-5365 344-4402 344-4402 247-1559 247-1559 (All telephone nmhr area codes are 907. Alaaka, unless otherwise specified.) Leo (Saki) Zak and Pave1 (Lojza) Jirasek stand in the entrance of Archway Cave. The background mountain lies across the Nizina. Photo by Cumin Metzler (1992). Table of Contents a * me Chitistones * * 1984 Chitistone Expeditions (ChEx 111) ................... 3 Group I: sometime in July ...................... 4 ..................... Group 11: August I1 thru 18 4 Group III:August18thru 25 ..................... 7 Group IV: September 1 thru4. .................... 10 Survey Map of Dark Star Cave ..................... 13 A Winter Chitistone Solo .......................... 14 Summer 1992 Chitistone Expedition ..................... 19 The Alaskan Caver November 1992


I~t~tot*~ lilote: Over the past 15 years. these have been a number of different caving expeditions into the Chitistone Mountains. one of the limestone regions of the Wrangell-St, Elias National Park. Knowledge of cave potential in this area was first introduced to the NSS and the Glacier Grotto by Joe Head in the late 1970' s. His account accompanies that of the first Glacier Grot to Chitistone Expedition CChEx I), held in September of 1978. published in November of 1978. The Alaskan her 3 (23 : 1-8.14-15. Since then two more Glacier Grotto expeditions have taken place, as well as a number of private expeditions. The results from the second Chitistone Expedition (Cmx 11) held in Augu~t of 1980. were printed in Jan/Feb of 1981, The Alaskan ever 6 (1) : 1-13. Reports from the third Chitiatone Expedition (Wx 111) have not been published until this issue (see following pages through page 131, wes eight years afterwards. Pilots Jeff Bennett and Jim Rerrtele have flown in to the Chitistone Valley with friends or relatives a couple of times during the summers of 1984 and 1985. As Group 1 of Chh 111. they were the first to enter Dark Star Cave; they were able to explore the main passage to the sump and the side passage until it got too tight (about L50 feet). A year later, wing bolts and pitons, they and Kent Hudson were the first to explore what is now called Whispering Cave, 800 feet to the sump. Visiting a year later, they were surprised to discover that all of their protection from the previous summer was gone! High water flow had frayed and shreaded their ropes and webbing and worn their carabiners in half l Winter expeditions into the Chitistones have taken plece during March of 1991 and 1992, Kevin AlEsed did a trip solo in 1991 (see pages 14 through 18); he and Jim Nicholls made a second winter expedition early this year, although no write-up has been submitted yet at this time. The latest expedition to date was the summer expedition of 1992. in which Leo (Saki) Zak and Pavel (~aj za) Jirasek (from Czechoslovakia] joined with Cumin Metzler (see pages 19 through 21) .I Rich Hall at the entrance. Dave Street on the way up. Photo by Jay Rockwell (1978). Photo by Harvey Bowers (1984) Dark Star Cave comparisons from ChEx 1 (19783 and ChEx 111 (1984) Note the position an bath photos of the large boulder under the Tip. November 1992 Volume 12 Ntrmber 5 The Alaskan Caver Page 3


Group I: sethe in July based on a recent telephone conversation with 3ef f Bennett m Alyson Walker Salt Lake City caving experience : first trip to the Chitistones ; expert rack climber; in charge of expedition medicine: registered nurse rn Jeff Bennett The Hike to Camp m Jim Remele e Todd Mueller E Scott Mueller Description After seven yeare, this expedition is the first to make a successful attempt and actually gain entrance into Dark Star Cave. After bolting across, they entered and explored the main passage to the sump and pushed the side passage until it got to be a tight squeeze (about 150 feet). Gronp 11: Aupt If thru 18 based on field notes taken by Jay Rockwe13 and Joe Head Personnel Jay Rockwell Anchorage caving experience: third trip to the Chitistones; experienced Alaskan; President of Glacier Grotto: member NSS; expedition leader: professor m Joe Head Fairbanks caving experience: ~econd trip to the Chitistones; discoverer of the area for NSS; experienced Alasksn; experienced caver and rock climber; chief rock climber z member NSS ; engineer m Jim Nicholls Fairbanks caving experience: first trip to the Chitistones; experienced caver; two years in Alaska: dwdoping into a competent rock climber; Vice-President of Glacier Grotto; member NSS; chief gear expert; architect Upon our 2pm arrival, all streams were high; Dark Star Cave looked nhalf fullw and the Chitistone Rives was up quite a bit. We left the west end of the airstrip, follcwing an old "Catn trail and keeping to the right at the first fork. When the flood plain pinched out, we went up onto the road along the south cliff face to Lime Springs Creek. Lime Springs Creek was tough to cross, but was wadeable with hip boots for the first and second days without getting wet. On both days we crossed on the delta near the mouth, but it was more difficult on the second day: wen though the Chitistone River had gone down 1.5 feet and the crossing was narrower, it was also deeper. It was more difficult still on the last day, when the Chitistone was the lowest. Stream crossing is a dangerous operation; two should not go together. but should instead use a pole or rope for assistance. When the rater is high. the travel between Lime Springs Creek and the next strew is the toughest part of the hike. One should go up Lime Springs Creek to the stone arrows on the west side. about 150 yards up from the mouth and near the vegetation line. When the water is low. one can go down to the end of she road. then dawn to the river bottm. and come up along the next creek. This trail, new to us, was dfscovesed by Jeff Bennett. and is part of the ancient trail system. It is definitely the best overland route. Once to the top of the cliff, it is level or downhill most of the way. Asriving at the gully of the next stream, one should note where the trail comes out so it can be located again on the way out. Continuing to Dark Star Creek, we used this same old trail. Going west. it is downstream fruu where the trail from Lime Springs comes out. Page 4 The Alaskan Caver Volume 12 Number 5 November 1992


When we arrived at Dark Star Creek. it was over its banks. We imprwised bridges from fallen trees in order to get across, as old trails were flooded. We made a new trail up the west side near the water. The campsite of the previous expedition was partly flooded with no rocks or gravel visible in the stream. Streamlets coming down the cave trail ran through both of the tent sites; this camp location should not be used. A new camp was established on the ridge further up the traiJ. to the cave. The tents were near the trail, and the kitchen area was further to the west. The kitchen was placed well away from the tents and the trail to reduce the possibility of being bothered by uninvited guests, since it seems that whenever food is served some gets spilled. We used the brook as a source of water and a place to wash dishes. Dark Star Cave and Bucklegrind Cave could be seen from the lookout and the kitchen. The trail up to the caves was easy to f ollw due to its heavy usage, but it was tricky to find the upper end on the way back dmn. The trail took off from a flagged tree at the lower end of a long gravel slide coming down from just west of Bucklegrind Cave. From there it rent straight dawn to a flagged lone birch. Bucklegrind Cave As there was too much water in Dark Star Cave. we attempted Bucklegrind Cave instead. Joe and Jim went in the 200 to 300 feet of wet. muddy crawl on grsvel, which contained ice further in. It then pinched out with breakdown; ceiling was one to four feet high and width varied. The cave needs to be surveyed. The cave makes about five major right angle turns. For a while it follows a fracture face striking N65E and dipping vertically. The floor is lull of breakdown mixed with wet mud. At least five times during the exploration, frostweakened rock was dislodged from the ceiling. The cave is so tight that a maj or rockfall could seal it up A wetsuit or drysuit is recommended. Smooth rock floor was seen just once: and at the November 1992 Volume 12 Number 5 very end there is only ice. Bucklegrind Cave is labeled "miserableff. Chitistone Junction Cave Just at the top of the first large talus slope west of Bucklegrind Cave is Chitistone Junction Cave. This one is easy to reach and it is a walk-in cave-a pleasant contrast. It was surveyed going in 110 feet. and has a chimney to the outside and minor formations. The cave directly above Chitistone Junction Cave has not been entered. The top of the skylight (or chimney) has nos been found; its height has ~ot been measured. A lot of time and energy was spent climbing the cliffs above Dark Star Cave and Chitistone Junction Cave. but only frost pockets were found. The lawet 100 feet of grey, f ine-grained mass5ve l hestone seems to contain dl of the caves. The next layer up is a tan-colored, thinly bedded. locally brecciated limestone good only for frost pockets. Beyond Chitistone Junction Cave is a much Larger gravel slide. There is a cave-like opening at the top, but the only find was a nice view of the valley. Sweetwater Cave Just beyond the talus slope is a shelter cave, and above that is Sweetwater Cave. It is estimated to be 300 feet long and ends in a room, though it was never compl-etely surveyed, Knee pads are highly recommended, es the passage is a lm crawl wer cobbles. We entered by belay, traversingfsomthe northeast. We rappelled out. dropping 30 feet to the shelter cave below. Tbe cave was named so because it was the last water source as one continues along the contact. Forty-Paot-Up (Whispering) Cave We tried to reach this cave high on the cliff over a wide shelter cave and beyond Sweetwater Cave. Starting from the north end, eight and a half bolts were put in before the chuck was sheared. We were nearly up to the ledge (two bolts short). Knife blades could The Alaskan kver


possibly be used on the ledge. Maybe twelve assorted knife blades would be needed. Bolts and hangers were left in place [but have since been removed]. The cave remained virgin. Bears Hid-August was berry time in the Chitistones, and the sharecroppers were hasvesting, They were noted by Jeff Bennett on the days he was here, We spotted a besx on the other side of the river on August 11, We saw Sow Blackie and her two cubs near Dark Star Ceve on August 14; though they were quite shy. they came close to us by accident later in the day. According to their tracks, bears must also be present at Peavine. Dark Star Cave The feature attraction of the lower Chitistone Valley caving terrain is Dark Star Cave. The impressive waterfall entrance was first brought to NSS attention in 1976, Expeditions in 1978 and 1980 failed to gain entrance into the cave, and it was not until July of 1984 that a successful climb was made. The entrance was rigged with an old piece of goldline that was well-~ecured by numerous pitons and chocks. The first man in has a hard time negotiating the lip. A belay with a "newerw rope is recommended to ensure the safety of climbers and make it easier to get over the lip. The main stream passage has a surveyed length of 386 feet to the sump. The sump may be passable at very low water. The only major side passage is a fissure on the right which has not been ~urveyed, Survey point Sll is where the fissure survey sh0t1J.d Btart. It is located on the left side of the passage, about five feet above the water level and 28 feet before the fissure. The point was chipped into the rock and labeled. The fis~ure leads to a chimney-which should be climbed with a belay. At the top 05 the climb, four-foot-diemeter passages lead off in two directions. Tbese have not been explored, The formations in Dark Star Cave are small and delicate. They may be the farthest north formations of their type, BE CAREFUL NOT TO BRW THEM! No measurement was made of water flow. There is a place in the cave, called The Narrows, where such a measurement could be made. By measuring the crosssectional area of the stream and then making a check on water velocity, one can calculate the output : cubic feet = feet per square feet per minute minute (cs area) The velocity can be determined by dropping a stick in the water and timing how long it takes to move a certain number of feet, The average of several trials should produce a reliable value. We were planning on mapping the fissure and determining cfm, but after only a few hours in the cave, the 38.5O (Fahr enheit) water began to take its toll. Be advised that the water is very cold and hypothermia is an wer-present danger. Water level in the cme fluctuates with the time of day and with rainfall. The warming effects of the sun melt snow high on the mountain, ceuaing the water lwel in the cave to rise several inches. The highest daily level was late at night (or early morning) Sweral days of rain Looking out entrance of Dark Star Cave. can raise the water level several feet. Photo by JSm Ni~hoPls (1978) making the cave impassable. Page 6 The Alaskan Caver Volume 12 Number 5 November 1992


We found that if we timbd our exit for 7pm, that the sun would be shining right on the entrance. This makes far great photos. The cgve trends eastward, anding away from the cliff face. It appears to be heading in the direction of Lime Springs, If one is looking for another way into the gystem, beyond the sump, east is where to look. Group f If : Aupt 18 th 25 by Curvin Metzler Personnel e Cumin Metzler Anchorage caving experience : 1 imestone caves (mostly West Virginia). lava tubes (Hawaii) glacial caves (Alaska) Scott Haki Fairbanks caving experience: limestone caves (in South Dakota), sandstone caves (Minnesota) ; climbing: ge0h gist Pan Flood Anchorage caving experience : 1 ava tubes (Oregon. California) ; climbing R8y Burger Peters Creek caving experience : limestone/marble caves (California) lava tubes (California), glacial caves (Alaska) ; cave guide ; climbing Trip Log Aug 18 We flew from Gulkana to May (Sat) Creek (arrived at 1100); then we shuttled to Pemine Bar. After our arrival, we packed our gear (started at noon) to the base camp which we named Star Base. The crasging of Lime Springs Creek was not easy, since we had no hip boots; but we found it best to take off whatever clothes that we needed to keep dry, grab a stick for balance, and just wade across. The Etream gets higher and swifter later in the day. so it should be crogsed early if possible. At high water. we crossed at the mouth; but at low water, we crossed about 100 yarda upstream. We finished packing our gear to Star Base (at about 2100) and prepared our dinner late, as it was getting dark and beginning t o sprinkle. bug 19 We slept in. had breakfast (Sun 1 late. and (around 1300) hiked to Dark Star We. Attempts to jumar into Dark Star were not successful; but we got some practice and were ready to try again. As we returned to Star Base it was getting dark. Aug 20 Today was another late start (Man 3 (left Star Base after 1300). We hiked up taward Dark Star. but then followed the base of the cliffs counterclockwise around the mountain. We went pest Bucklegrind Cave and Bar Cave, then on to a crarace cave about 40 feet long and about a foot wide. Next we reached Chitistone Junction Cave, but we did not explore above it for Upper Chitistone Junction Cave. We also found a small cave just beyond Chitistone Junction Cave, up about 20 feet, above a small ledge. We hiked on until we came to a huge talus fan below an open area of high overhanging cliffs. Near the middle of the arc of cliffs is a shelter cave, but re were unable to climb close enough to check it out. Next, we arrived at Sweetwater Cave, but we decided to return another day to explore it. Then we came to another shelter cave about 30 feet up and next to a large rock spike. On the far aide of the rock spike are a couple of small openings. Goatinuing around the mountain, we passed a shelter cave containing lots of small. dark feces, a tall esevace cave, another shelter cave with feces, and then Fern Cave. Once again we returned late to Star Base. The following pages contain stereopair images from Dark Stat Cave taken during Group I11 of ChEx 111. Following page: some formations; top of the next page: the view out; bottom: sappelling back down. Photos by Cumin Metzler (1984). November 1992 Volume 12 Number 5 The Alaskan Caver Page 7


Page 8 The Alaskan Caves Volume 12 Number 5 November 1992


\ I November 1992 Volume 12 Number 5 The Alaskan ber Page 9

Contents: The
Chitistones 1984 Chitistone Expeditions (ChEx III) Group I:
Sometime in July Group II: August 11 Through 18 Group III:
August 18 Through 25 Group IV: September 1 Through 4 Survey
Map of Dark Star Cave --
A Winter Chitistone Solo --
Summer 1992 Chitistone Expedition.


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