September 2015 - Pushing Past the Wookie

Pushing Past the Wookie         September 2015                                                       by Dan Lamping

Labor Day Weekend, 2015 Carroll Cave surveyors spent three days underground with the goal pushing past the Slimey Wookie and upstream into Confusion Creek.  We entered late Friday night and made our way down to camp at Jerry's Cairn within a few hours.  

By now camp trips have become far less regular given the limited number and challenging nature of leads in remote places like DL7.  We had a larger than normal crew on this trip and six of us had been part of the CCC survey since the beginning, including Bob Lerch, Ben Miller, Spike Crews, Joe Sikorski, Tony Schmitt and Dan Lamping.

A few years had passed since we last went to the end of DL7 and into Confusion Creek.  Most of the factors necessary for success were there including a solid crew whose schedules aligned, an extended, holiday weekend and relatively dry weather.

We made it up the Slimey Wookie without incident.  The Wookie is a remote, low, and very muddy, body sized crawlway which leads to Confusion Creek, a relatively small passage which moves enough water at high flow to fill DL7 once the stream backs up from the Lake Room. After thoroughly disgusting Tony and Spike with the Wookie, each of whom had never seen it, we split up into two teams.  Our goal was to map upstream in Confusion Creek towards the Whirlpool Sink.  On our last trip back to this area Confusion Creek was nearly dry.  We opted to head downstream on that trip, regretfully neglecting upstream until the end of the day when Joe Sikorski scooped up ahead a bit to see what was going on.  He found traverseable passage leaving this lead in the books as one of the grimest leads with the best potential.  

Ben, Bob and Tony all started surveying at the Wookie while Joe, Spike and I pushed ahead upstream.  Right away it was noticeable that the water was higher than we had anticipated.  We didn't even make it 100 ft before it became too low and we were pushing into body sized passage in low air.  The trip was called once a full blown sump was encountered. 

All six of us were demoralized by this obstacle.  We opted to head out of the Wookie and reconvene on the far side of the drainage divide between DL7 and the Confusion Creek tributary.  We should have spent some time trying to lower the water level by digging mud out of the stream, but we were all a bit dismayed knowing a chance like this may not present itself easily again.  

After reconvening and eating it was decided that Bob, Ben and Tony would push the small, descending tube which drains the Confusion Creek tributary at the muddy climb up to get to Slimey Wookie.  They crawled a couple hundred feet into in and mapped their way out.  The passage did continue heading downstream and needs to be mapped.  Presumably, it intersects the downstream Confusion Creek passage somewhere past the end of exploration in lower Confusion Creek.

Spike, Joe and I went to look at the high lead in Barter Town which Bob and I found when we first discovered the passage.  On that trip we had seen bats flying into the lead.  This was the only place in Lower Thunder River where we've seen bats.  Knowing that we're just beneath a valley floor, the lead seemed pretty exciting.  

We crawled up the L8 passage, intersected the Barter Town main and went left towards the only large room in that area.  We climbed up to the lead and Joe Sikorski scurried across the muddy ledge to determine that it is enterable.  The passage continues and needs to be mapped.  We opted not to scoop and decided to begin making our 3-4 hour trip back to Jerry's Cairn.  We made it back out into DL7 and near Push Camp when the other team caught up with us.  

Worth noting is that we saw an obvious high water line in Barter Town suggesting that this whole passage doesn't necessarily become totally inundated as we know that over the summer the highest flood since the CCC entrance was created, was encountered.

The next day we resurveyed the area around Horseshoe Falls to improve upon some poor sketches made years earlier.

Following that we made our way out of the cave on Monday.

While in the back of DL7 staring down the face of defeat I think most of us felt that this was it.  That we're never going through the Wookie again and an upstream extension into the source of the DL7 stream would never be breached, at least by us.   But time heals all wounds.  By now, two months later, I look forward to going again sometime, in the far-off future.  

Besides pushing up Confusion Creek, the Barter Town bat lead could be a way on.  For me, this has become the most exciting lead in the cave.  Perhaps in a few more years the stars will align, as will our schedules and maybe our fearless leader Bob will have forgotten about the misery of such a trip and will be drawn by lure of discovery as we all have so many times before.


Powered by
Privacy and Cookies Policy