I know, I know, this is not a caving website, but we had to hike to this cave located between two peaks, so that counts right? October 11th, Greg (EastKing), Bill, Nancy, and I went out to explore Newton Cave on Cave Ridge which is the deepest known cave in the state. Part of the deal in Bill and Nancy's revelation of the location of the cave was that Greg and I would not share the information with others. The combination of deep shafts and slippery down-sloping slabs can make spelunking on Cave Ridge extremely hazardous. But I am told that there is an expensive book on Amazon.com that can help determined people find the way.
After several hours of hiking we found the entrance and made our first slippery scramble and short rappel into the entrance chamber. The caves of Cave Ridge were formed by the erosion of a large vein of white marble. Inside the first chamber we found remaining portions of this vein which looking sort of like snow in late spring which has melted and refrozen many times. There was an old plaque on the wall and a sign-in register which was really just soggy tatters.
Proceeding on we navigated a series of confusing diagonal slanted passage ways leading up and down and around. Many of the vertical shafts were running with water from above increasing the difficulty. Thankfully there were plenty of good hand holds and footholds. My helmet saved me from braining myself several times and I now have a new appreciation for skull protection.
There were a few very small passages that we had to crawl through and I quickly became aware of my skeletal limitations in range of movement in a small space. Being tall was an advantage in scrambling the larger open shafts but in the crawl spaces it was a limitation. Not once in my life previously, have I spend so much time groveling in the mud. We next came to a ledge parallel to a dark void. There were several solid looking rappel bolts. I took off the rope I had carried and Bill was the first to drop into the hole. I followed suite and found that the 40 foot drop was actually fun after clearing the overhang.
When we were all down we continued on into continually decreasing spaces. I felt that I was gaining a new idea of what life would be like as a contortionist. At 3:15pm we called it turnaround time after reaching a depth of 25 stories according to the altimeter. We used a set of ascenders to scale the rappel rope rather than fighting with wet prussik knots. Making it past the overhang section proved to be very challenging for everyone.
Above the ledge, there were only a few hair-raising wrong turns and retraced steps before we found our way back to the entrance. After seven hours underground, we emerged into the freedom of wide-open spaces and fresh breezes, just as dusk was setting in.