The Explorer is one of the founding members of the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto, the caving club here in Montana, and has started leading cave trips for Grotto members. Since I am still relatively new to caving, and we have a lot of new interest and fresh blood, we’ve done a couple of great “beginner” trips. Towards the end of May, we ventured out to Ophir Cave.
Daryl, Liz, and I met Logan (one of Liz’s co-workers), Ann, and Lee in Missoula, then we caravanned to the cave. Logan had never been caving before, and he was super excited to go. There is vertical work in Ophir, but he wasn’t worried, as he’s an avid rock climber. Ann and Lee are recently new to caving as well – their daughter is in a high school caving club in Big Fork. This was the first time Liz and I caved together, so we were excited to be Lady Cavers. Daryl was the designated “Experienced Cave Explorer”. =D
Ann crawling into the entrance. Logan, me, Liz, and Daryl just outside.
Several years ago, a man fell into the mine shaft and later died.
Remember, Cavers rescue Spelunkers.
We explored around the entrance room for a bit, looking for the way to the bottom. Of course, it was in the very last place we wanted to go. We had to squeeze and squish and superman through passage to get to the pits.
We finally all reached the drops and got into our vertical gear. There are two drops in Ophir. The first is about 10 or 20 feet and the second is 40 feet. Lee went first, then Ann, Logan, and I. Liz came after me, using Daryl’s spare Petzyl Stop. I don’t know exactly what happened, but needless to say, the Petzyl Stop doesn’t. Liz came flying down the rope at breakneck speed. Thankfully she was only about 10 feet off the ground when it happened – it would have been so much more terrifying if it had been a longer drop.
We decided that Liz and I would share the Micro-Rack for the second drop. Lee and Ann went down, then I did the drop and tied the rack to the rope and they pulled it back up. Liz came down on the rack, then Logan, then Daryl on the infamous Stop.
Once we all made it down safely, we started exploring the cave. We found this awesome mud room full of Cave Bacon and some mud sculptures. On top of this mud menagerie, there was also a rasta snowman and a pipe.
Me and my Cave Man!
There are some really cool formations in Ophir. I love the ones that look like a pipe organ!
After placing a data logger, we headed back up the rope. The first climb up, the 40 foot one, is pretty straight forward to get up – it’s a free drop, so you just inch your way up the rope. The second climb, the 10 foot one, is less so. There is a giant rock between the floor and the top of the climb, making it a little tricky. Lee went up the same way we came down and had a small issue getting his hand ascender over the rock, so I decided to head up a slightly different way. My way was not much easier. I ended up having to support myself on the rock behind me so I could take my hand ascender off the rope and replace it above the corner of the rock, then press myself backwards to get my croll over the rock. Logan was going up using two hand ascenders, which gave him issue, so Daryl attached his Pantin to Logan’s foot and up he flew!
After our group photo (which took three tries to get – caves are cold and our breath kept fogging up the photo), Daryl led the way out. When I took this photo, I was standing up. Remember how I said we had to superman through the passage? Yeah.