maandag 22 december 2008

Volcano trip

Dag Spekulozen,

hieronder het verslag door John Tinsley van onze trip naar Volcano, een klein onooglijk dorpje in het El Dorado - oftewel Goudland - van California. Tonnen grond zijn hier weggespoten geweest op zoek naar goudklompjes, en er valt nog steeds goud te vinden! Wij waren echter op zoek naar iets anders: grotten ...

Fotokes zijn te vinden hier en bij coco.

Groetjes uit frosty Philadelphia,
Will & Joke

Volcano Area Novice Caving Trip
8 December 2008

It was a gorgeous day as the Tule fog burned off while driving across the Great Valley. Ten of us collected at the Post Office in Volcano, California. Frost lingered until mid-morning in sheltered valleys and in the topographic bowl that gave the 49ers the notions that (1) the area was a volcanic crater and (2) said volcano was the ultimate vein-based source of the placer gold that they sought so avidly. The miners were correct about abundant placer gold, which was derived from gravels deposited by an ancestral Mokelumne River, but the local topographic low containing the town of Volcano owes more to the lens of carbonate rock being more erodible than surrounding non-carbonate rocks. But I digress.

Almost all participants arrived by the appointed hour of 10 AM; one carload wandered in late bearing an apologetic if unreconstructed but admitted sleepyhead. No one seriously objected because the landowner met us at the post office and proved to be a master raconteur. He entertained us with accounts of the town's history and a few of its more colorful past and present residents while we waited. He then accompanied us up the hill, looked over the caves, and then left us to do our caving while he hiked over a part of the 200-plus acres he owns. An extremely affable fellow, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the region, its history and its people, he patiently answered our many questions and corrected errors in our grasp of folklore while we kitted up. He suggested that the preferred place to park cars was in the lot adjacent to the town hall, rather than the lot next to the Catholic Church, which convenes services on Saturday afternoon. The town hall lot is about a block further away from the trailhead, and is quite commodious.

So we relocated from the post office to the municipal lot and made final preparations for the trail and the caves. After selecting the equipment required, we hiked to the caves via the customary route, passing the cemeteries, the road gate with now-breached barbed wire on the east end, and the hydraulic mining tailings pond with grove of acidic-soil-loving conifers. The area was quite dry with no Zuider Zee. [For the uninitiated, the Zuider Zee is a name given to a giant lake that forms atop the tailings in the winter; during the late 70s, heavy overnight rains trapped several vehicles, and at least 3 cars got mired to the axles and then were forcibly extracted.] We found the caves without incident and initially visited all entrances to acquaint folks with the geography and the various expressions of urushiol-bearing vegetation (poison oak). As we had a large party, Robert Darrah generously had volunteered to co-lead the trip. Robert took half the party to Mushroom while Tinsley led the remainder to Santa Claus. Halfway through the day, we traded caves, so everyone got to see both. Of arguably greater significance was the dynamic duo of Will Moffat and Joke Vansweevelt who wasted no time in exploring all of Santa Claus, commencing with the discovery entrance. (I think this is the first time in about 12 years of leading trips up there that anyone has tackled the chimney entrance; several have tried but got filtered out owing to insufficient clearance at the top of the chimney.)

Robert rigged Mushroom Cave with a cable ladder and 11 mm PMI, so folks could amuse themselves with their vertical gear if they brought it, or if not, could be belayed down and up the cable ladder. This arrangement worked well. Santa Claus Cave was quite dry; only a few water droplets clung to stalactites' tips at several points in the cave. The inviting lower fissure did its thing and drew in the unwary, who then explored the nooks and crannies, then climbed up and continued past the site of the old Ice Cream Cone formation and down to the lateral fissure. The lateral fissure did its thing, inducing caution in the inexperienced, but with encouragement, all but Tinsley went down and back. Tinsley grabbed a fine 20-30 minute nap while waiting to assist anyone who might need help up and out of the fissure. No one required any assistance. The fissure was dry. We briefly considered pouring water from canteens down said fissure to grease it up a bit, to raise the level of sport a notch or two, but we then drank the water instead.

Between Mushroom and what Mr. Ketron called Pearl Cave, this is a great place for vertical practice. The pit entrance to Pearl Cave offers simultaneous rappelling and ascending with good light and a second walk-in entrance, so participants can cycle through exercises multiple times. Mushroom awaits any interested Pearl Cave graduates, being slightly bigger game. These caves, located about 50 feet apart, beat Connie's Cave as a practice venue, and there are no known bat-related issues, yet.

After exiting both caves, we de-rigged and stashed gear in packs for the return hike. Reaching the cars in a now-shadowed if not slightly dusky parking lot, we packed up and then departed Volcano for Gianini's Italian Restaurant in Pine Grove, beating the evening rush and enjoying post-trip socializing, fine food, and commodious conviviality.

These caves are short but nicely decorated, the hike isn't arduous, and the weather was perfect. It turned out that most of the true novices who had signed up initially turned out to be unable to participate, so the level of experience was unusually high and possessed of a distinctively Continental-international flair. It was a low-stress experience for the leaders, which was most pleasant. It was Jason's first cave, and he fared perfectly well and seems eager for more. It is safe to assert that a good time was had by all.

Participants: Leaders were John Tinsley and Robert Darrah. They were ably abetted by totally cooperative and enthusiastic corps of cavers: Jenny Kuo and her friend, Jason Cabassi, Al Keller and Dominic Ramirez from Diablo Grotto, Mark Bellias, Will Moffat, Joke Vansweevelt, and Mike Davies.

1 opmerking:

Dagobert L'Ecluse zei

Dag Joke,

Mooie foto's van jullie tripje daar. Voor coco's site moet je wel een paswoord hebben maar da's niet moeilijk te vinden :-)