Caver Metal

Cave: Sinnett-Thorn Mountain
Date: Saturday March 3rd, 2003
By: Steve Bowser

Sinnett-Thorn Cave Conservancy

Being very healthy and even more adolescent, I decided to test "my metal" on an extended trip through Sinnett-Thorn Mountain. The hand-picked team consisted of a close family of long time cavers (the Bastian's… Chuck, Jeff, Ken, & Melissa), my wife Lynn, and myself. They were all familiar with the easier Sinnett side, while I was the only person to be through the more difficult Thorn side. The plan was to drop the vertical Thorn entrance first and explore that system while rested, reach the Big Room in Sinnett after about five hours and consume a full meal, then work our way down to the waterfall and exit the Sinnett entrance after about five more hours. The Sinnett exit is very easy to reach, so if we started showing signs of fatigue, we could be out of the cave in twenty or thirty minutes. We all exercised and prepared through the winter for the challenging task of an extended period underground. The first (and hardest) task was hiking the hill to reach the Thorn entrance. After 30 minutes of panting we reached the top wondering if we were in the shape that we thought we were. The drop was a very easy 20 foot sheer decent with another 15 feet of steep slope at the bottom. We rigged dual lines and belayed descenders as precautions and entered without delays. The Thorn side of the system has the majority of formations… mostly flowstone and columns. We took our time exploring every inch. It's a very beautiful cave… be sure to see the pictures. The lower parts of Thorn, past the Monolith, are very steep, very long, and wet. After listening to Melissa's backpack bounce down the slope until it was out of earshot, we wisely rigged a 100 foot hand line for assistance. Nobody wanted to be the next backpack. Nearly at the bottom laid the dreaded "connection". There has been so much controversy about this connection, I brought a tape measure. From the Thorn side, it begins as 12"H X 16"W X 10'L. At the end of this tunnel there is a 10"H X 14"W X 1"L pinch. Then it opens into a 2'H X 5'W X 5'L sloped pocket which you can turn around in. At this point, with people on both sides of the tunnel, you should pass the packs through or they might get bunched up in the tight passage. Exiting the pocket is a 12"H X 5'W X 8'L downward slope which you must snake your through. At the end of the slope is a 10"H X 24"W X 1"L pinch which is sometimes puddled with water, but was bone dry for us… even though recent snowfalls had been melting. Again at this point you should pass packs through. The big room certainly is big. Downward passages for dumping saltpeter exit this room and lead near the entrance, but were too steep to tackle without more rope. Instead, we descended the "Silo" which is another very steep incline deserving a handline, but is only about 30 feet long. Entering into the "Water Passages" is another pinch that begins as a 12"H X 2'W X 1"L, then becomes a 14"H X 3'W X 8'L tunnel. Our trip had been taking longer than expected and as we reached the waterfall, it was almost 11 hours underground. Our final goal was to locate a set of passages with bear claw marks behind the waterfall. However, that involved some climbing and Melissa appeared to be getting tired. So instead, we headed for the exit and made it out in under 12 hours. I was quite satisfied with the results of "my metal", but I can also safely say that 12 hours is certainly my limit. Leaving the convenience store on the way back to the cabin, the case of beer seemed unusually heavy. And even after the assistance of alcohol, I remained sore for two days.

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Modified: Wednesday, 12-Mar-2014 09:38:13 EDT