MAIN DRAIN CAVE EXPEDITION 2016, PRE-DIVE GEAR STAGE DROP

Peter Hartley on the Last rebelay in the first sequence drop in Main Drain Cave, Utah

At 1.72 miles and with a depth of 1,227ft Main Drain cave is the 9th deepest caves in the United States and the 4th longest cave in Utah. For years now, surveyor's, geologists, and cavers, have been stopped by a terminal sump at the bottom of the cave which has had them questioning what is beyond the sump and where is the watercourse continuing down into.  Previously, divers have entered these waters, but this year, a expedition of cavers and cave divers will be making a push deeper into the depths of this terminal sump in Main Drain in hopes to uncover what is beyond this Antarctic like environment where this mystery has held her secrets.

Tom at the top of main Drain Cave, Utah
Main Drain Cave sits at around 9000ft. in elevation and is at around 34 degrees F. With the unforgiving high humidity, blowing wind, and 34 degree F. water, this system is strictly meant for the well experienced and prepared.   This alpine cave is waiting for someone to make a mistake where Hypothermia will set in and take down even the heartiest of cavers. Training sessions, meetings, and select groups of cavers have been placed in phases to operate this expedition with peak performance and precision execution.

Peter Hartley on the Last rebelay in the first sequence drop in Main Drain Cave, Utah
A series of trips have gone into Main Drain this year and will continue all the way up to the expedition, where ropes are being replaced, bolts are being checked, warming stations and heating camps are being considered and located strategically throughout the cave to keep everyone safe.
Peter Hartley on the Last rebelay in the first sequence drop in Main Drain Cave, Utah
On this particular trip, our objective was to bring in dive tanks to the bottom of one of the drops as well as 60 lbs. of weight for the divers buoyancy.
Peter Hartley on the Last rebelay in the first sequence drop in Main Drain Cave, Utah
Amy descending into Main Drain Cave, Utah.
I get to parking lot and Peter greets me with a stack of dive weights to pile in my bag and take up the mountain and down into a given stage drop in the cave. I additionally brought all of my camera gear so I could get some photos and plan on where I will be setting up future photo opportunities once the Expedition rolls out.
Tom descending to the second rebelay in Main Drain Cave, Utah
Tom, Amy, Bev, Peter, and Justin all set up the trail to the entrance of Main Drain and we made it up there in pretty good time.
Peter Hartley at the top of Leaky Faucet Drop sequence in Main Drain Cave, Utah
Each of us gear up in PVC suits and layers of thermo protection to mitigate the cold and wet conditions that this cave will be providing us as we enter into the depths. I got a nice AV suit so lets see how this thing works out in the cave.
Main Drain Cave, Utah
I get on rope with my bobbin and get to the first rebelay at around 15ft down. The next rebelay is at around 60ft down and had some adjusting and re-configuring to maneuver around in order to successfully pass the knot in the short loop and complete the rebelay. This drop takes you down to the first snow cone and you rap down to a large ledge which is connected with a traverse line that takes you to the last two rebelays, one being around 10ft to a small ledge and another the drops you down to the bottom of the sequence with a 100ft free hang in a raining waterfall.

Amy climbing the first sequence of drops in Main Drain Cave, Utah
I had to change over to a C rig on the bobbin since the ropes were 11mm and wet and I was not moving on my bobbin even with over 50lbs of gear strapped to my harness.
Amy climbing the first sequence of drops in Main Drain Cave, Utah
There was another objective to replace ropes in the frayed knot drop as well as drill some bolts in the attempt to make the lower sections of the cave a bit more user friendly.
Amy climbing the first sequence of drops in Main Drain Cave, Utah
I think it is important to ensure we have the best gear we can get our hands on and have the most efficient methods used in this cave since the conditions are quite critical and we will have a number of people travelling through the trade route drops.
 
Ambient light piercing through the entrance of main drain cave, Utah
Tom came down and had some challenges at the second rebelay with the knot in the loop so he turned around and successfully ascended back up the rope. Justin and Bev were already deep in the cave and Amy and Peter were waiting at the bottom.  We continued on and made it to Ryan's climb where we had to pass a knot on ascent to the 30ft top of the pitch and at the beginning of the Leaky faucet drop sequence. Amy was getting cold and wanted to exit the cave so I elected to leave with her and get some photos of the bottom of the drop as well as the entrance of the cave.



Amy climbing the first sequence of drops in Main Drain Cave, Utah
The climb out went without any incidence which is good but this cave is quite interesting as it is a massive system 9000ft up, 34 degree water and blowing air with a similar temp. The objective for today was mostly successful but the push team was not able to re bolt any new sections use to a drill failure.
Amy climbing the first sequence of drops in Main Drain Cave, Utah
 
There will be more objective led trips leading up to the main expedition and I am looking forward to being at the sump in July to see what this water course really looks like!!
 
Bev descending into Main Drain Cave
 

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