Monday, November 26, 2012

Caving: Sumping To Do

In today's episode
  • We all go swimming in the dark.
  • Josh turns into gas.
  • And some men get naked in the woods.

Sumps are low flooded areas of a cave that can't be passed without breath hold swims or scuba gear. Think of them like P-traps under your sink. The ground water is at the same level as the cave and with minor changes to the ground water (drought or flood) the cave is ether filled or dry. We enter one cave that has been flooded for the majority of 20 years but because of the current low water we get half flooded.

It's cold out, maybe 20 but wind makes it more like 10. In order to explore the cave we must wear heavy wetsuits. Most use a 7mm (1/4 inch) but I have a Farmer John that is bibs and a jacket, each 7mm, so I have 14mm on the torso and 7 on the rest. Ground water in MN is 40-50 degrees and we may be in it for 2 hours. Getting into a wetsuit is hard enough with all the unsightly tugging and pulling but in the cold it's awful. When we exit we need to reverse the tugging and pulling in the cold and now wet bodies. To say things go blue and, um, shrink, in these conditions is only tolerable to the stinging cold and the removal of everything wet in a race to get warm and dry.  

I look like a WWI message carrier.

To enter the cave we need to pass a narrow lip of rock to a sloping muddy ramp. Beyond that was the pool that began our swim and wading that went some 800 feet to a deep sump that would require technical rope work to descend into.

The water deepens to a swim for short sections but most of the time we walk like you would in a shallow pool, you know, on your toes with your knees real high so you float more and can stumble over unseen rocks without falling forward.

The video below has music overlay to remove language, poor sound, and distracting conversations. In exchange for copyright free sound, it places an Ad. I'm sorry about that, please X the popup when you see it.

Photo quality is poor because the lens gets wet and I have nothing to dry it with. I try but it's hopeless.

I pass under a very low section that require me to hold my head sideways so I can breath but it's only 5 feet before I emerge into a round domed room with a high exit that connects to the main passage.

Josh is having such a great time he changes into a gaseous spectra.

We exit from the cave where it's about 50 degrees to the 20's.

This is were the cold grabs on and the wet skin stings before the cold gets to your core and makes you shiver. If you're swift you can strip down and jump into something dry before you get beyond the stinging. You have about 30 seconds once you peel off the wetsuit so lay out your dry clothes with great care. And try not to fall on your ass while putting your pants on.

We hike out to get lunch at the best place in town, the bowling alley, and on that sorry note, good night.


1 comment:

  1. Awesome! Thanks for posting these. Sorry our girlish screaming ruined the audio on that first clip - but boy when that water hit a certain point....

    John F