Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm sure for many of you that live full time in cave country or other areas around the world where there are numerous caves found, exploring a virgin cave is not a once in a life time event! For a small group of tight knit Utah cave divers, Ricks Spring is a dream come true. You may recall reading an article in the CDS magazine last year written by Wendell Nope, concerning the ongoing exploration of Ricks Springs in Logan Canyon, Utah. Of course compared to Wakulla or other major exploration projects, Ricks is of little consequence in the overall scheme of things, but having a diveable cave within a couple of hours of home is absolutely fantastic!

We have been pushing this cave over the past 3 years. Originally dived by Wendell Nope and Richard Lamb, the Ricks exploration team now consist of 10 people: Wendell Nope, Richard Lamb, Tom Lamb, Matt Mimnaugh, Tibby Petrescu, Mike Robinson, Amy Smith, Joshua Thornton, Michael Thornton, & Randy Thornton.


As a high flow, high altitude fresh water spring, diving Ricks is a challenge in many ways. It is only diveable during certain months of the year due to excessive flow! When I say flow, I mean during spring run-off times, you can't even make it in the entrance let alone make any headway in the cave! Probably the biggest challenge is the water temperature. 40 degrees is cold by anyone's standards, and cave diving in this environment certainly appeals to only the most vigorous divers! Dry suits, thick hoods and gloves make virtually every aspect of laying line in virgin passageway a challenge. Additionally, smoothed scalloped surfaces with few legitimate tie-off points make for line laying challenges.

About 1500 feet into the cave, you hit a dry section which then requires climbing up a waterfall section and portage through approximately 300 additional feet of dry/wet limestone area to the next section of going underwater cave. As of two weeks ago, with the teams assistance, Josh and Michael Thornton added about 300 feet of additional passage making explored passage past the dry section about 700-750 feet, for a total of approximately 2200 feet of cave explored. (rough estimate, as at some point we will go back an do a legitimate measurement!) According to Josh and Michael, the new unexplored passage became extremely silty as the percolation dislodged silt resting in the scalloped cups on the sides of the cave and viz when from 100 feet to 2 inches!

Run times for exploring the end of lines at this point are running in the 2 to 2 1/2 hour range, so you can imagine how cold the divers are when exiting the cave in these temperatures! The divers usually require help removing their equipment and getting out of the water at that stage because they are so wiped out!


The cave is definitely sidemount access. There are some very large passages, but also some restrictions that just wouldn't allow for backmount access. Yesterday, in order to continue past the dry section, the push team staged cylinders at the dry section so that they could use just their primary LP 85s in the new section without having to worry about extra stages in the large crack that is currently being explored.


Last year the CDS donated some gold line to be installed. Less than a year later, parts of the gold line already need to be repaired, and we hope to work on that project in the next few weeks as well as improve the routing in a few places. Past the dry section there is only exploration line in place for now.

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