Hard Rock…Soft Wings

Sampling water using hydrolab at Rock Springs.

Beyond gate lies cave entrance to Rock Springs.

Andrew donning sidemount equipment.

If these wings could talk…

Kaibab saves Artie from vicious pool cleaner!

Having surveyed most of the existing line in Rock Springs, we turned our attention to the remainder, which consisted of a section of line that had been laid some time before and led into a low bedding plane to the left of the main line. The main line itself stopped at a major restriction straight ahead through which a great deal of flow was coming, making even approaching that restriction difficult.

The dive team on this occasion consisted of Terrence and Andrew. In addition to our side-mounted steel tanks we each took a single 80 cubic foot stage tank to give us more exploration time. Our swim to the end of the main line was uneventful. At this point the line to the left is not tied into the main line but to an old hammer on the floor. There is considerable flow coming down this side passage and progress up it was slow. Numerous animal bones – jaw bones, pieces of skull and limb bones – can be seen scattered around (perhaps we should call it “The Bone Passage”?). At about 30-40 feet from the main line it was clear that progress was going to be difficult. The line appeared to disappear around a projection on the roof but before we could get there Terrence noticed a point in the guideline where it had been severely abraded by the adjacent sharp rock. Given the demanding nature of the cave passage with its very low ceiling and high flow we decided to withdraw until we could run a new guideline parallel to the suspect old one.

It was clear from our previous survey a few days ago that the main direction of the cave lay in a north-south direction. We therefore decided to try to pass the restriction going straight ahead (maybe this should be “The Way Ahead Restriction”?). This is a low slot with just enough space to squeeze your chest through. Just don’t try to breathe at the same time. The high flow concentrated in such a small cross-sectional area was constantly trying to push us back out again, but after fifteen minutes or so of slow progress we finally pushed through the fifteen-foot long narrowing and emerged into what for us was comparatively large passage about four feet high by three feet across. The larger passage meant that the flow was much more manageable and it was even possible to swim along. Andrew was in front with the reel whilst Terrence was behind making the tie-offs secure. Progress was slow but steady. This passage was much smaller than the main part of the cave, although still it transmitted an impressive amount of water flow. The appearance of this passage is a mixture of phreatic tube and bedding plane with white rippled sand on the floor covering cream-colored limestone which halfway up the walls becomes dark brown-stained with phreatite. This darker limestone is much more fragile and one of our principal difficulties was in finding secure tie-off points for the line.

Eventually we came to a point where the floor-ceiling height seemed to be too low to allow a diver to squeeze through. It may go but by that time we were worn out. Our hands were covered with scratches from the sharp rock including one on Andrew’s hand that subsequently required suturing. His wing was also badly damaged from the abrasive ceiling rock. We tied off and surveyed out using a tape measure. It was noticeably easier to pass the restriction going downstream. At last we emerged to the endless questions of the bathers in the spring run. We had laid 150 feet of line, and every inch was hard going. There is still more exploration to be done.

At the end of the day the entire team gathered at the home of Allison Tysall’s parents. The Pap’s provided ample nourishment as well as opportunity to go for a refreshing dip in the pool.

Dive Team
Andrew Pitkin
Terrence Tysall

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