12 March 2009

Bat Cave and our Descent to Base Camp

10 March 2009

Image: Pseudoscorpion collected in Bat Cave. You could fit four to five of these tiny arachnids on top of your thumb nail. This tiny predators have venom sacks in their pinchers, and they hunt psocopterans, collembolans and other tiny soil-dwelling arthropods.

Today, we have four objectives, (1) pull traps from the cave where we slept, (2) retrieve the Anabat from Babylon Cave, (3) canyoneer our way out of the side canyon safely, and (4) jug up a 60 ft rope to a cave to deploy the Anabat.

Image: Kyle and I discussing the plan of attack for the day. Credit: Ty Spatta.

I didn’t sleep too well last night. This cave also has a long history of bat use, and thus has a rather acrid smell of guano once you get about 30 feet into the cave – this was the only place that contained an unoccupied sleeping platform. While I actually like the smell of bat guano, I didn’t think it would be good for me to breath it all night, so I opted to sleep near the entrance. Consequently, the only place to sleep was on an incline – so, throughout the night, I slept and slipped towards the entrance. I’d wake up, move my bag and bed roll back up slope, fall asleep, wake up and then do it all over again…

Image: Some "trick" photography in Bat Cave. Using a slave flash with a timed delay, Kyle was able to trigger the flash held in front of him. As a result, you see more of the passage. This helps to best depict the scale of this large cave. Credit: Ty Spatta and Kyle Voyles.

Everything went well today. We woke up around 0730hr, made breakfast, chatted about what needed to be done, and then we started the day.

Image: Voyles on his sampling station, and removing arthropods from the trap. Credit: Ty Spatta.

Kyle and I went out onto the bench to discuss where and how to establish a traverse line across a rather exposed section of our route. As I've probably mentioned enumerable times in blog entries about this expedition, this bench has some precarious sections to it. A seemingly rather benign fall in the wrong place could spell a 1130ft free-fall to the canyon floor. Without a parashute, I think I'll pass.

Image: Trying to sleep on an incline. Credit: Ty Spatta.

First, we had to knock out Bat Cave. It took us about 2.5 hrs to conduct our searches, and check and pull arthropod traps. We continued our "divide and conquer" approach. Ty and Kyle conducted the work in the side passages, and Doc and I did the work in the main trunk passage.

Image: Our descent out of the side canyon. This was a 15 foot drop that required a rappel and portage of backpacks down below. Credit: Ty Spatta.

Once done, we returned to the entrance. Ty still needed to pack, and we were all ready for lunch. On the way off the bench, we stopped by Babylon Cave to retrieve the AnaBat detector.

We headed down the side canyon in record time. Given all of the equipment we were hauling down, we still managed to get back to base camp in under two hours.

Image: Clipped into webbing and leading the lowering of backpacks. Credit: Ty Spatta.

Ty and I quickly geared up for the jug up to Cliff Cave. I needed to deploy the AnaBat, and Ty wanted to see the cave. It was work for me, but a sight-seeing trip for Ty.

Image: Deploying the AnaBat detector at the entrance of Cliff Cave. I'm clipped in because there is a 60 ft drop less than four feet behind me. Credit: Ty Spatta.

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