DORTON KNOB SMOKE HOLE-BOLT CLIMB

December 03, 2015

Hidden Well, Dorton Knob Smokehole, Tennessee
Mike Green and I woke up around 5 Am to get an early start over to Dorton Knob Smokehole for a long day in the bottom depths of this system to seek out a way to connect Serendipity Cave. Lyndsi, Mikes girlfriend cooked up " Lyndsi Breakfast" which was super awesome and was a full of much needed calories for the trip.  
Dorton Knob Smoke Hole
We Set out to the mountain which took us about an hour and a half to get to and waited for Elliot Stahl and Damien to show up. Once they got to the parking lot we got dressed and prepared for the trip into the cave.
Smelliot acting like he is dong something in Dorton Knob Smoke Hole
We encountered a few drops of 50ft or less which were connected by slot canyon passage that we had to stem over in order to get to the next drop.  The lips were tight but they opened up into small but open rooms to rap down with ease. The Canyon passages connecting the drops were narley clothing grabbers that required you to stop to release the clothing from the sharp popcorn protrusion or risk having your layers shredded which would accelerate hypothermia....by the end of the trip, even the bag I was using was shredded.
Damien drilling as Elliot Belays in Dorton Knob Smoke Hole
After a few hundred feet of sharp canyon stemming we encountered a few more raps that dropped us into the 1200ft crawl section of the cave. We went through the yuppie entrance which is the "easier" route with the historic entrance being the most insidious of the two entrances.  
Mike Preparing hot coffee at the bottom of Dorton Knob Smoke Hole
After we got to the bottom we prepared for the belly and hands and knees crawl in water and gravel that would eventually take us to Hidden Well. My bag was full to the rim as I had to pack my vert gear in there as it was and would be grabbing at everything just to the side of me sapping much needed energy away from my progression.
Dorton Knob Smoke Hole
We started off with hands and knees crawling which was not to bad and it would eventually transfer from that to belly, some stooping, little walking, and back to hands and knees until we got to the last section where it was a crawl in water including a plunge in the bathtub of 54 degree water before we got to hidden well where the wind would be blowing and the drop into the room would be massive!!!
Hidden Well, Dorton Knob Smoke Hole
We ended up ascending 15ft into another canyon traverse which was a bit exposed but took us to a drop down and a traverse line that led us to the pendulum free fall into hidden well. This drop is around 296ft but the room is massive and almost twice as big as Mystery falls. It was an amazing drop and I wish I got a better picture of this room.
Dorton Knob Smoke Hole
Once we all got down we continued down into a breakdown pile with super tight squeezes and the water raining down upon us as we entered the last drop.  this was a small drop but very beautiful and I wish I got more photos of this drop.
Dorton Knob Smoke Hole
We finally made it to the bottom where there were dome leads to be pushed so Damien and Elliot started climbing a 20ft dome and mike prepared some hot coffee while we waited.  Damien eventually got to the top and reported that there is another room and other leads to push so we all climbed up and while Damien and Elliot went into another dome room, Mike and I went down into another lead where the water was coming from. The passage was extremely tight, sinister, and relentless but mike was able to push through and reported that there was a 15-20 ft dome room with a portion of the water coming form the top and another portion coming from a crack at the bottom. A climb would be dangerous just to get back to this room and the logistics of the climb itself were shady due to the chert layers that would need to be passed. The decision was made to pursue the other dome which might have had more potential.
Dorton Knob Smoke Hole
We were in this room for a few more hours as Damien climbed about 60ft and ran out of rope.  We were getting a bit cold and our equipment ran out so we ended the push and started our way back out. The top of this dome might have potential but there was a crack that might have led to a canyon which might be just big enough for a person to fit through but it was hard to determine. We climbed out of the breakdown pile and I popped my shoulder a little trying to fit through the 10 inch squeeze which was not good. we ascended Hidden Well and made our long slog back through the 1200ft crawl and up and out through the slot canyons swearing at mike ever 5 minutes or so for taking us through this amazing nasty devil of a cave.  I was even starting to get a little smoked at the very end and had enough of this system. We took a short cut and founded our selves out at around 1am in the cold 35 degree air. It felt great to be out of there but every step was a task as we dragged ourselves back to the car and changed into dry clothes. It was impossible to dress for this cave as you would get too hot and too cold hour after hour. there was no comfort but just a bad ass time in a challenging cave system
Damien climbing the first dome as Elliot belays him from the bottom in Dorton Knob Smoke Hole

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