June 06, 2016

 rapping into the Karst window of red Baron Cave, Utah

We were able to get permission to visit Red Baron Cave on a short notice so I picked up the key and we headed over to the location where Red baron is located. We got a bit of a late start but we managed to beat the heat and traversed up the trail to the couloir where we had to scramble over boulders, scree slopes, and lofty broken up terrain for almost three hours and 2000 plus feet of elevation gain to the top of the cliff where Red Baron Cave is located. The best way to get up and down this traverse is to follow the couloir all the way up and head over to Red Baron.  I rigged to a tree and backed it up to the suggested dead tree that was split in half but still looked solid. 
 Joe hiking up to Red Baron Cave, Utah

The rope went over the cliff and about 15 feet down to a ledge with a karst window where the cave entrance is located. We rapped down and Joe opened the gated entrance to continue on into the cave. I went through first while utilizing a trolly line so we could drag gear through the small squeeze and it was a tight one!!
Red Baron Cave, Utah

The passage goes straight and dips down a bit before sloping up on a 15 degree angle to a small room. We hauled gear back and forth to make it easier to get through.  Joe opted not to go through the passage since it was too tight and Laura got a bit cold from the wind blowing through so I proceeded on into the cave to photo some of the rooms, the cave was only a few hundred feet in length so it was not long but there were some breakdown piles to squeeze around. 
Red Baron Cave, Utah

 There was another squeeze of 10ft and it opened up into a small but walking passage with calcified roots in the ceiling...that was pretty interesting. I noticed a side passage that I thought I will check out on the way out so I continued to travel down the passages passing up some interesting formations and finding some breakdown to climb through. 
Red Baron Cave, Utah

That was also tight but once I got through, I made my way up into some interesting rooms with different colors of strata that was layered in the walls and some amazing yellow and green infused formations!  Last time I saw something like this was in Costa Rica.
yellow and teal colored formations in Red Baron Cave, Utah
This was rather interesting to see.  If I can guess, the green hints must be some kind of oxidizing element from copper that infused itself within the calcite and the yellow can possibly be a sulfur composite. The rooms were small but I spent some time photo documenting these formations and started to head on out.  
Red Baron Cave, Utah
The cave was only 200-300ft. in length but I am not sure because there is no published map, or otherwise, available information to view let alone no real information on this cave which is crucial for any recreational caving trip, IMO. I headed back out after being in the cave less a hour.
Red Baron Cave, Utah
When I came back out to the start of the main passage where the calcified roots were located I saw a side passage that started to slope down on an angle and had some interesting formations on the ceiling.  I continued to stoop walk down the passage and I could see that the slopes angle increased but the passage did not look too dangerous as I have done many down climbs on sketcher traverses in the past.  
Red Baron Cave, Utah
 I started to down climb and a hand hold broke (which is a first) and I threw my pack to the side, turned on my back and increased friction as much as I could while using my feet to protect me for obstructions and my knees for shock absorbers but my speed increased until I got down to the bottom of the passage. My adrenaline was pumping good and I was hoping I did break anything at that point.
Red Baron Cave, Utah
The "slide" was around 30ft on a 50 degree angle and decreased as I got near the bottom. I looked at my hands and I had a laceration to my hand which did not stop bleeding until I got stitches at the hospital 4 hours later, I sprung a leak in my leg which was a small laceration and another laceration on my knee. 
Red Baron Cave, Utah
 I had to climb back out of this sliding passage and I knew that this would have been a challenge but I was here, down at the bottom so I took a few photos of the room and started negotiating my way back up the climb.   The climb itself was sketchy and at one point I was in a situation where I felt like I very well could have slipped back down so I grabbed onto some holds and crawled my way back up to the top.
Red Baron Cave, Utah
with blood dripping from my hand and leg, I took some photos of the main room and headed out of the cave through the two small crawls trying to keep my hand high and yelling out that I need the first aid kit. When I made my way through the tight squeeze I cleaned my wound with water than alcohol and bandaged a quick clot which seemed to help quite a bit. Joe was very calm and accommodating to this situation. 
Yellow and teal colored formations in Red Baron Cave, Utah
I climbed back out of the cave with some challenges and Laura was very calm and accommodating to providing care with dressing more wounds and checking bones and neurological which all appeared to be fine.

Strata rock layer in Red Baron Cave, Utah
They de rigged and we packed up and headed down a couple thousand feet on a steep dry wash hoping we wouldn't run into any dry falls to rap. It took a bit longer to get down but eventually we got to the trail and got to the hospital with some cuts and lacs which ended up being 10 stitches when it was all done. 
small walking passage in Red Baron Cave, Utah
I am writing this small party self rescue incident because I am passionate that this is very knowledgeable information for anyone going into Red Baron Cave and any and all recreational trips ( all caves trips).  Any cave trip you go on, you shall never skimp out on any gear...never de bug your bug out bag! I kept my first aid kit in the car and kept webbing for hand lines in the car...

Bottom of the slide in red Baron Cave, Utah
 Always carry everything you are suppose to carry no matter what kind of cave it is. A lot of us do it, some will not admit to it but I should have made sure I had everything.  Next always rig a hand line on a down climb that looks half way sketchy. This is difficult to quantify because this will all be dependent on skill, the climb, and the situation, BUT who cares, rig it anyway!!! 
Calcified roots Red Baron Cave, Utah
 I felt like I should be able to down climb this and a hold broke and I took a tumble.  I should have taken into consideration the tight entrance squeeze and the remoteness of where the cave was and the lofty rescue that would have happened if I broke something.  All things considered, I made the decision to down climb which was the wrong move, we are all responsible for our own safety.  Thankfully, my reflexes kicked in by releasing my bag, turning on my back feet out and knees bent. This could have been a serious issue and I am glad I did what I did.
Calcified Roots, Red Baron Cave, Utah
I could see a trail where people have slid down this passage but I was not informed or saw any immediate placements for rope or webbing. So my concern is that someone else will slide down this passage and have different results.  I consider myself pretty lucky to walk away from this one, but a rescue would be quite intensive and involve risking a lot of peoples lives, (including my own, if a rescue is called here) to get someone through the squeeze, up the karst window and down the mountain. 
Red Baron Cave, Utah
 BRING HANDLINES IN THE FORM OF ROPE! :) Use a 100ft rope to trolley gear back and forth in the squeeze and continue to use the rope on the first side passage going left.  Again we are all responsible for our own safety when we enter a cave, but this information was not available have a hand line and although it is not directly anyone's fault but mine to decide to climb down, suggestions and further information on the cave, including a map is good knowledge to have, especially for recreational trips.
Joe Rapping down the Karst Window entrance Red Baron Cave, Utah
 I consider myself a pretty good caver and not bad at climbing either to put it all modestly, but anything can happen to anyone, yet knowing what to prepare for on a recreational caving trip in a remote environment like this one is CRITICAL information. That being said, my training has always led me to a conscientious perspective of risk management, mitigation, and introspection when something goes wrong, I don't see or have heard that I am much of a "risk taker" but stuff like this can happen to anyone (always carry a handline and if it looks sketchy, rig it) If this was a survey or a exploration trip, I would have made sure I bolted or used naturals to rig hand lines, why don't I do that for all trips?  I should and will continue to have that mind set yet a lot of us might cut corners (lets be honest, seasoned cavers)........ don't do it.  I know what I did wrong but I also know back east or other caves we have mentions that there are sections on caves that require hand lines and sketchy traverses to be aware about, so now this information is known for future visitors of Red Baron Cave.
Laura hiking up to red Baron Cave, Utah
Never take essentials out of your pack, keep your essentials in there at all times for any cave, rig semi sketchy down climbs (especially if the cave is in a remote area and a rescue party will have a hard time reaching you) think about your self, your group, and others when making decisions.  The cave is worth visiting and although No cave is worth taking any kind of risk in, I found this cave to be uniquely interesting but not a destination cave. be careful out there.
I want to thank Laura Sangaila for assisting me and being a great team member and responder to the incident by checking for other wounds and for assisting in patching me up more, staying calm, and working as a team.  You are a great asset to a cave rescue team and very helpful for taking me to the are the best!!!
I want to thank Joe Vasko for having a first aid kit with the available resources to treat a deep laceration.  Joe was a good responder to the incident and I would love to have him on a rescue team.

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