It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cave 2, Day 4: Hole in the Wall and Twin Caves

We got started at a pretty reasonable hour today, after a very cold night in the trailer. I woke up at 4 or 5 AM and was freezing, and basically found anything I could to pile on top of me for warmth. I had no idea how to adjust the heat. It turned out that we had accidentally had the AC on instead of the head. Oops. Anyhoo, we headed over to Edd's after Rob lovingly packed us all sandwiches for lunch. When we got to Edd's, our tanks had already been loaded on the boat (sweet!) so we got going right away. We headed to Hole in the Wall. I was leading the dive. The plan was to go upstream first, I think, unless I am confused about which was is upstream and which is downstream :) We went to the right after dropping down the chute. David showed us on a map where we were to go. There was a jump to the right, that he pointed out on the map, somewhere after the 1700' mark on the map. Okay. Once we got to the site, we did some S-drills, which I was totally sick of at this point. Especially in 5 feet of water. I hate being in 5 feet of water; it doesn't matter how many GUE classes I take or how many 6 minute ascents I do, I will always feel on the verge of popping to the surface at 5 feet :) Once that was done, and we took care of some bubbles on my regulator (accompanied by some trash talking about Apeks regs), we got going.

I was really fixated with getting through that restriction, while running the reel, so much so that I forgot to drop my bottle. The boys dropped their bottles, but I didn't until the other side of the restriction at 40'. Oh well, maybe David won't notice ;) I was relieved once I got the reel in, and we got going. This cave has a super silty bottom, so we were warned to be careful in our selection of a place to drop our stages. When I was about to go off of my stage, I found a spot which I thought looked good, and suggested it. Rob didn't like it though. So we kept going, and I kept not seeing any better looking spots, and then Rob signaled and pointed out a spot. It looked just like the spot I wanted to drop at, so I was a bit miffed. Then David swam over and told us not to drop them there. Finally Antonio picked a spot that worked. Phew. I didn't really feel weighed down by the stage, but once I dropped it I felt so unencumbered. After quite a bit of swimming, we came to an interesting spot. Last time we were here, there was a T, or what looked like a T, about 1000 feet in. Today it was a jump. However, I remembered that Keith had said something about that not usually being that way. So, whatever, it was a jump, and we weren't taking it. So I stayed on the main line, which veered left and abruptly got shallower. The last time we didn't make it too far down the line before turning, but I remembered it got smaller. It was supposed to eventually open up into a room. But instead it just got smaller and smaller. Eventually I saw what looked like a crack that sort of headed down ahead of me, and thought "he wants us to go in there? I don't think so." When I got to that crack, I saw the line tied off on a rock, and couldn't see it coming off the other side, so I figured this was the end of the line. And even if it wasn't, I wasn't going any further :) So I turned around and thumbed the dive, stirring up a little silt in the process. Rob told me to back up so he had room to turn around and seemed annoyed when I didn't, but there wasn't really any room to back up. After stirring up a bit more silt, we all managed to turn around and head out, at least some of us on the line :)

On the way out, there was the usual assortment of failures, and I ended up sharing gas with Rob. Then eventually I ended up with two stage bottles, and Rob with zero, and he went flying out of the cave in front of me. Nice... you give the slowest diver in the team two bottles and then start to motor? We eventually ditched some of the bottles on the line before the restriction, and left it to David to tote them out. Bwahaha. Then Antonio and I got to share gas through the restriction, which was fun. The most amusing part was when I got my foot caught between his head and the ceiling :) After an itty bit of deco, we surfaced. We decided not to bounce back down to retrieve the reel right away, since another team was on there way in as we were leaving, and with all that traffic, the restriction was bound to be a bit silty. Not that our gas sharing exit had anything to do with that ;)

After a bit of vacillating and a quick swim in the mill pond (brrr), we decided to go back for a very short dive downstream. David thought the viz would be worse in that direction, and thus it wouldn't be worth our time to do much of a dive, but we needed to retrieve the reel, and we might as well check out some more cave while we were doing that. So we agreed to do a 200 psi penetration (that sounds really lame now that I've put it in print). David had been pestering me about getting a black-skirted mask to replace my beloved yellowing, science-experiment-like clear-skirted mask. I'm pretty sure cave divers were black-skirted masks because they think it looks cool, but David had some excuse about light reflecting off of the glass and night vision and the like, to cover up his vanity. He offered me his backup mask to try. It fit, so I figured why not. We got in the water, and while we were doodling around on the surface, the mask kept fogging. David had de-fog in his pocket, so he re-de-fogged it for me. It fogged up yet again, and we de-fogged it some more. Once it seemed to be fog-free, we headed in for a dive. Do you see where this is going? Before we were even through the restriction, the mask kept fogging and was driving me crazy. I kept flooding it and clearing it, and to add to the annoyance, every time I cleared it, the mask would sort of deform and wiggle around on my face (I think the clasps were a little weak from living in David's pocket for so long, and the strap loosened, which wasn't really helping the situation). We got to the reel, where it was tied into the upstream main line, and Rob picked it up and moved it to the downstream mainline. While he was doing that, I got my backup mask out, and once he was tied in, I told him to wait while I switched masks. I can think of one other time when I have had to actually deploy my backup mask. It was when I was trying out Rob's backup mask, because it was black-skirted and cool looking, and he talked me into trying it. I'm beginning to see a pattern.

Then we got going. My backup mask immediately started to fog, which I can't say I was surprised by. It had been sitting in my pocket all week, not once de-fogged or otherwise paid attention to. But at least I could flood and clear this one without it moving all over my face. After a few minutes, David swam up to me and showed me a note asking if it was okay if we penetrated 400 psi instead of 200. The viz was better than expected, hence the suggestion. I said okay. Then less than 2 minutes later, after David had swum up to Antonio to show him the note, and then Rob to show him the note, I decided that it was time to call the dive. Sometime about having trouble both reading my gauge and seeing the line just didn't seem right :) I thumbed it and told the guys that my mask was "broken" (using the old-style one-handed signal for broken :P). I felt like a dumbass for giving David the okay to extend the dive and then moments later thumbing it :) I was thinking I could really use a failure-less exit, and David was kind enough to comply. Eventually I determined that the only way to maintain a fog-free mask for more than a few seconds was to partially flood the mask and just leave it flooded. This was heaven on my nose and sinuses. By the time I surfaced, I really couldn't clear my mask because my nose was so stopped up! I had been #3 on that dive, and I felt like I had completely squandered my opportunity to be in the back, with nothing to do. Rob, meanwhile, thought he had been cheated out of his opportunity to be #1.

There wasn't much to debrief from that dive, except why the heck didn't I take my primary mask as my backup, or at least de-fog my backup given the higher than usual likelihood of needing it!?! So we headed to Twin for one more dive. I'd never been to Twin; it is the one cave we dove all week that I hadn't been to before. I thought it was super cool. Shortly after entering and going down a little chimney (like a mini version of the Hole in the Wall chimney), there is this really round tunnel that goes for several hundred feet. David described it, before the dive, as being like holding a paper towel roll up to your eye and looking down it. That's a pretty good description. I noticed on the map afterward that it is labelled "Subway" which is also a pretty good description. I thought it was one of the most aesthetically pleasing caves I have ever been in. I told Rob how I thought it was just so cool how it seemed so perfectly round and just went on and on, and he said "most people would call that boring". I love radial symmetry, perhaps to a neurotic degree. I think this cave would be very photogenic. Eventually the beautiful paper towel roll gives way to a vertical crack (this isn't the right way to describe it at all, but I can't think of a better term), where the line Ts into a little circuit. We dropped our stages there and headed right, with the plan being to make it around the circuit before having to turn. You go down the crack and it quickly gets deeper, to about 100 feet for a time. At some point the line takes a greater than 90 degree turn to the left, and there is another line that continues straight on and is like arm's reach from the main line. Seems like a good place to accidentally end up on another line. This is right around the change in arrows. After not very long, you come to another vertical crack/chute and after going up that (and feeling not at all graceful the whole time), you end up back at the T. We picked up our bottles, had a variety of failures on the way out, and ended up sharing gas and with one little Scout light left between all of us. I had the light, and did an excellent job of lighting my way and no one else's :) For some reason all of our 20' stop felt totally awkward and like I was wedged in a crack where I had to crane my neck to see the others.

We got our gear and ourselves back on the boat, and formulated a plan for Friday. The original plan had been to dive at Madison, but reports were that the viz would not meet standards, so we (David) decided to go back to Ginnie. When we got back to Edd's they said that they couldn't fill mix until the next day, so we were going back to Ginnie with 32%. Yay. We left our tanks there to be filled, and headed to dinner, at Madison's Warehouse again. When we came back, our tanks were all nicely laid out and ready to go, and we started the arduous process of loading them all in the truck. I did an excellent job of supervising the heavy lifting. Once that was done, we headed back to the trailer to finish up lecture. This included the deco and gas properties lectures. I snickered during the lectures because I thought they were below me. I am such a bad student.

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