Morris Cave

23 July 2005

Trip Report

Cavers: Tucker, Liz, Mariela, Rod

At 7:30 am on 23 July 2005, the four of us set out for Morris Cave in Vermont. After quick stops for gas and donuts we arrived at the cave at 11:30. The daystar was beating down upon us, so we quickly hid away underground. We entered in a spacious, downward-sloping tunnel and began crawling into the cave. A few meters in we found the first distraction, a tunnel to the left which is slightly larger around than me. I crawled in, and after about two meters it dropped some .5 meters and turned parallel to the tunnel we had entered. This may have led outside but we aren't sure. After pushing myself out of the distraction, backwards, we continued. Liz found another distraction branching upward, and followed it for a while, but it was unable to distract the rest of us. It was small but with enough room for a small person to turn around. Liz followed it until it branched right and left - the two branches met shortly after, but both were fairly narrow. Liz then turned back and we continued. Some short distance later we reached "the squeeze". I laughed at this, as it was wider than the previous distraction. After a me-and-a-half distance of squeezing we continued in the tunnel, now crawl-height. Eventually the tunnel narrowed again into "the pinch". The pinch was slightly narrower but much shorter than the squeeze, with breast-hurty pebbles and some stagnant water. We passed the pinch with no trouble, then continued along crawl-height tunnel until reaching "the Squeeze" (capital Squeeze). The tunnel sloped downward for a me-length and then narrowed to approximately me-girth at the local minimum, then flattening, widening and turning upward on the other side. Rod and Liz passed the Squeeze with little difficulty, and then I entered the Squeeze. After my arms and head passed through my shoulder blades and ribcage became caught between the gravel below and solid rock above and to the sides. Much wiggling by myself, pulling of my arms by Rod, and pushing of my feet by Mariela were unsuccessful. I backed up and Rod excavated some gravel, and we tried again - but I was still unable to fit through. I crawled back up, turned around, and tried the hole feet-first on my back. However, the curvature of the cave made this difficult, so I flipped onto my stomach. I inched backward through the Squeeze in this manner, rather slowly owing to the difficulty of moving backward through a tight space. Realizing that some help might be needed, I had Rod pull on my legs. This worked quite well and I passed quickly through the Squeeze with only some minor scratches on my stomach. Mariela fit through with little trouble and we continued. It continued for quite some distance, but was not distracting enough, so we took the lower passage. This led us to a large chamber. We turned uphill toward the sound of running water. Passing through a small hole we reached a steep climb, and Liz rigged up some webbing as a safety measure. We clambered up and reached a small waterfall. We then climbed back down, retrieved the webbing, and took a different route to the large chamber adjacent to the entrance tunnel. We then went downhill and descended a slippery mud slope followed by a drop of some 2 to 3 meters. This was assisted by two somewhat sketchy ropes that, so we proved, could still hold our weight. We then faced a large rock in the chamber of the cave. I climbed over it while Liz, Rod, and Mariela slid underneath like penguins. This brought us to the mud-encrusted shore of a pristine underground lake. Rod accidentally stepped into the water and decided that it was, in fact, rather cold. We debated for a while just how bad an idea it would be to go for a swim and determined the following:

Not swimming in the extremely cold underground lake: good idea

Swimming in said lake with a wetsuit: not-that-bad idea

Jumping in fully clothed: stupidly bad idea

Skinny dipping: bad idea

As most of us are prone to bad ideas, Liz and I went skinny dipping in the extremely cold underground lake. And survived. Rod opted not to swim, and Mariela determined to be "responsible" and stay warm and dry, despite being the only one among us with a wetsuit. We cave swimmers dried off with my sweatshirt, which I had brought in my backpack as an optional third layer. We then climbed back up the sketchy ropes to the large chamber. The physical exertion here warmed me up from my swim, though my testicles remained shriveled and cold. We ate some candy bars and exited the chamber into the tunnel through which we had entered. We all passed through the Squeeze uneventfully, then the pinch, then the squeeze. Rod explored the tunnel which Liz had been distracted by earlier, and determined that it might be interesting but any especially interesting features were not immediately obvious. We exited the cave and washed off in the small waterfall just outside. We left the shade near the cave and discovered that, despite our long hiding underground, the daystar continued to burn. We drove away and stopped for ice cream and lunch in Massachusetts. We then drove back to MIT, arriving around 9:00 pm. I later discovered that I had a mild sunburn, presumably from the lunch time since the mild glow of our headlamps would not penetrate the layers of mud and clothing that we all adorned in the cave.

- This trip report brought to you by the letter pi, the number e, and the cave swimmer Tucker