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Me diving

Friday, September 23, 2011

Long Weekend in FL: Ginnie Springs River Intrusion Tunnel

After years of talking about it, we finally convinced Ted to go with us for a long weekend in cave country.  We flew in on Friday morning and stayed through Monday evening.  Kevin met us too, though he did not arrive until Saturday.  Ted spent the first day with Mark M. doing some sort of cave refresher/intro to Florida caves.  So on Friday, it was just Rob and me.  Rob had lofty ideas of getting to Ginnie Springs by noon, which of course was folly.  By the time we got our gear from storage, got all of our fills squared away at EE, and got some lunch, it was after 2 by the time that we got there.  We were slightly delayed because the last time we were in FL, I bought a new backplate to keep there, but hadn't gotten around to webbing it.  I hate webbing backplates, and came up with some complicated scheme involving taking my normal backplate with us, so I could match up the sizing.  But recognizing the silliness of this scheme, Rob offered to just do it for me.  I was a bit doubtful of his ability to size my harness on the spot, but he claimed he could :P  So we had to take care of that, and there were a couple of webbing misfires before we got it quite right :)  Of course we finally got to Ginnie just in time to get a text message from Ted saying that they were heading back to EE for lunch, but would be back at Ginnie later.  While we were at EE, we were asking Doug about ideas for where to go at Ginnie, since it seemed like we'd been to pretty much all of the places we could get with a single stage.  We showed him where we had been and he pretty much agreed.  So then he gave us a suggestion if we double staged, the river intrusion tunnel, though we were undecided if we wanted to do a double-stage dive.  Or more like I was undecided about it, since I was feeling kind of tired from the flight, and I've never double-staged at Ginnie before and it seemed vaguely scary.

When we got to Ginnie, I told Rob we could double stage if he ran the reel.  I didn't want to have to deal with pushing two stages through the eye and dealing with the reel.  Rob agreed to that.  But I did want to lead the dive, so he agreed to let me lead once the reel was tied in to the mainline.  He's so good to me.  Since I hate the mainline, or at least the flow on the mainline, I proposed that we go up the roller coaster line, then to the Hillier tunnel, then back to the mainline (at the dome room line) and then to the river intrusion tunnel.  So that was the plan.  When we got to Ginnie, we still had to setup our rigs, but that went reasonably quickly.  We counted up the number of spools we needed, and added one or two just in case we miscounted :)  We weren't entirely sure if we could jump from the Hillier tunnel right back to the mainline or if we would have to jump to the dome room tunnel then to the mainline (neither of us remembered it being that far, but couldn't remember just how far it was).  We put our bottles into the water, got into our suits and went for a little cool off swim before getting geared up and back into the water.  I dropped down and did a valve drill first, since I was still dubious about my cold-webbed harness.  But I could indeed reach my valves.  We got our bottles and headed into the eye.  Getting through there with two bottles was not too bad, but I was glad I wasn't running the reel :)  It was really only a pain in the one spot that's a pain with one bottle; and it didn't seem to be that much more geometrically challenging with two versus one bottles.  When we got to the mainline, Rob let me go ahead of him.

I quickly made my way up to the top left of the gallery, and found a nice spot where I could dodge the flow quite nicely.  Rob has taught me well.  Or maybe the flow was just down :P  The double stage experience was not too bad, once we were to the mainline.  I was a little nervous about going through the lips, so I took an extended pause right before the lips before starting through.  Again, not really that big of a deal -- you aren't actually any taller with two bottles, the tall part is just a little wider.  So it was just as ungraceful as usual, but not more, getting through the lips.  As we approached the hill 400 jump, I spied a good spot to drop our bottles, so I suggested we drop them there.  Ahhh, phew.  I've only done the roller coaster jump twice before, I think, so I was quite paranoid about swimming past it -- would I recognize it?  I knew it was somewhere in the vicinity of 700-800' in, but I wasn't really sure.  To make matters worse, before the dive, Rob had asked me if the jump was before or after the little low part where the center of the passage has a bump running through it.  I told him I thought the jump was before it.  So then when we passed that area and I still hadn't seen the jump, I was a bit worried.  Then a moment later we came to the jump and of course it was quite recognizable.  I put in the jump and we headed through there.  That's a fun passage; certainly a lot more fun than taking the mainline :P  When we got to the end, I started to install the jump when a team of scooter divers appeared out of the tunnel we had just come from.  Rob and I were embroiled in a discussion of where to drop our stages (since the Hillier tunnel didn't seem like a good place to drop them), so I tried to get out of their way.  They disappeared from my visual field and my consciousness.  I wasn't sure where they went, but I thought the mainline.  We found a nice little rock to leave our bottles on, and then finished installing the jump.  We headed up the line, which we thought, at that moment, was the Hillier tunnel line.

Then the line ended after like a minute.  This is not what we were expecting.  But we could see another line that this line effectively T'd into (except not, it was a jump).  I knew that right was the right way to go based on a) basic geometry and b) the direction that the arrows were pointing on that line (to the left).  I went to my pocket to pull a spool, but before I got it out, Rob had pulled a spool and started to install it and swim over to the other line.  Yea, you read that right.  While trying to pull a spool, I felt a bunch of line spaghetti in my pocket... obviously some line had come off of one of the spools in there.  When I caught up with Rob at the line that he jumped to, he asked which way to go.  I pointed the way to go (duh), but not with much force, because I wasn't ready to go yea.  Then I told him to hold.  I pulled my pigtail out of my pocket because it was in the way of fixing the spaghetti.  Rob just gave me this look like "why the f--- do you have your pigtail in your hand?".  Then I pulled a spool out and told him to hold on.  I was passing the pigtail between my hands, trying to figure out how to spool up the loose line while also hold the spool and my pigtail.  I think this is about the point where Rob started yelling at me through his regulator.  I'm not sure what he was saying, but it started with "Dude!"  Eventually I got the spool cleaned up and put back in my pocket, and pointed the way to go.  As you can possibly imagine, I was a bit annoyed with Rob by this point.  Like a minute later, as I was swimming along, Rob kept swimming PAST me, so I stopped and yelled at him with hand signals to tell him I was the captain and he should stay the hell behind me :)  He mostly behaved for the rest of the dive after that.  A couple minutes up the Hillier tunnel, I remembered, while visualizing the map of the cave, that the Hillier tunnel line runs all the way to the bats, and there is a little connector between the mainline and that line.  Doh.  Well I won't forget that again.

Dropping the stage bottles before the Hillier tunnel was a good call, since at least in some areas there would not have been good options for leaving bottles on.  When we got to the end of the line, I looked off to my right to see if I could see the main line, to jump directly to it, and I could not.  So instead I put the micro-jump (actually more of a nano-jump) to connect the Hillier line with the dome room line.  And managed to bonk my head on a spit of rock sticking down from the ceiling in the process.  Ouch.  We headed toward the mainline and of course it was super close, and I could easily have run a spool directly to it.  Grumble grumble.  We jumped to the mainline and headed up it.  I was expecting a torturous swim up the mainline, since there is quite a bit of flow and not much to pull on, but it wasn't too bad.  I guess the flow really was down.  That part of the mainline always seems so dark to me, because it's big and so less light reflecting around me.  So I was worried about missing the jump, since I couldn't necessarily see the right wall that well.  But it was not a problem.  I let Rob install the jump since I was out of jump spools, and I could tell that he really wanted to install a jump.  And I even let him lead from there.  Not that he really deserved that, based on his earlier behavior.  The river intrusion tunnel was weird.  The water looked really clear but it seemed like our lights did not penetrate it very well at all.  But I liked swimming in behind Rob and his giant light; there was a cool light effect in that tunnel.  We passed a T, where we went right, and not too much longer after that, the tunnel sort of pinched down and went up a little.  I saw that coming up, and noticing that I was going to turn on gas in just a couple minutes, I tried to signal Rob before he made it into the smaller passage (since it would be easier to turn around before getting into it), but he didn't see my signal.  I guess that is the downside of being behind Rob and his big bright light.  So by the time I signaled him to turn around, we were both in a sort of tight spot where it was annoying to turn around.  For all I know it opened back up into bigger tunnel up ahead, and I was just making our lives harder by turning a little early.  Actually after looking at the map, that doesn't seem likely, but I guess I'll have to investigate that at a later date.

On the way out, Rob pointed out stage bottle rock.  Doug had described this rock to us, and I had been looking for it and not seeing it on the way in, but that's because I thought it was just before the river intrusion tunnel; in fact it is just after it.  Rob knew that, probably because he stays up late at night, studying cave maps.  When we got back to the jump off of the mainline toward the dome room, Rob remembered that we had switched positions, which meant I had to clean up the spool, unfortunately.  The flow made that sort of annoying.  I managed not to hit my head while cleaning up my nano-jump and then we were back in the Hillier tunnel.  The viz got VERY bad in one passage while we were in there.  It was so bad that we were both on the line for a brief period.  But it eventually cleared up, and the rest of the way back was clear, and uneventful.  We didn't see any GPOs or anything.  When we got back to our first stage (the first that we dropped, the second that we came back to), Rob was fidgeting a bit about getting on his bottle and when we got to the park bench, I realized why... he wanted to jump off of there.  So we dropped our bottles there and headed up that line.  I often forget that there is actually a bit of flow on that line.  It's not like most of the other jumps off of the mainline, where once you take the jump the flow goes WAY down.  It's an especially rude awakening after you have been riding the flow out for a half hour, and then you take that jump.

We headed up that for a while, with Rob leading, since he'd been leading on the way out.  We passed the first jump to our left, then the second, and I figured he was just going to keep going up that line.  Then he stopped at some point, at an arrow on the line, where it turned to the left 90 degrees.  I didn't know if the arrow was for a jump or what, but there was what looked like a tunnel to the right.  Rob swam off a bit to look around and then came back and said he was going to install a line.  I told him that was fine.  I figured he had found a line on the other side.  Then he swam off.  And swam and swam.  And never stopped to tell me to cross once he had tied in the jump.  I was sitting there rolling my eyes about this and eventually decided that I had to follow him, because he was getting beyond the point where I could see him.  So I followed him line, only to find that there was no other line to jump into.  He was just running line.  Eventually he came to a room, with a pile of stuff in the center, which was the "White Room".  I didn't realize that there wasn't a line to the room.  After that, we headed out -- all the way out.  Rob re-took the lead once we got back to the park bench and got our bottles.  I made it back through the lips without a problem, phew.  When we got to back to the reel, I must have made some sort of stray hand signal, which Rob thought meant "go ahead, I'll get the reel".  Once I realized that that's what he thought, I signaled him again and was like "uh uh".  He sort of shook his head and then waved me ahead.  Hehe.  I waited for him in the 50 foot room while he cleaned up the reel to that point.  That seemed to sort of take forever :P  Then I crossed my fingers, hoping I wouldn't get stuck in the eye on the way out, and headed up.  There was some definite clanging along the way, but it was a pretty controlled passage through there.  I waited for Rob in the 30 foot room and then we got our O2 bottles.  After we picked them up, we saw someone hanging out at the entrance, looking down into the room.  I thought it was a diver waiting for us to exit, but we were hanging out at 30 feet for a minute or so, which Rob tried to signal.  Eventually after no one came by, but I got sick of waiting, I went up to the 20 foot ledge, and the diver was gone.  It turns out it was Ted, just peeking in to take a look at the eye (they had entered through the ear for their dives).  We settled in on the ledge and negotiated deco.  Once that was set, I whipped out my wetnotes, took a few notes on the dive (none of which did I reference while writing this report, oddly), and then we played some hang-man.  Or hang-kitty, as I prefer to play -- if you consider each whisker a separate body part, you can be really bad and still not lose.  Among today's phrases were "Ted the Cave Diver" and "I love the Station Bakery".

When we finally made it out of the water, we found a note from Ted on our car.  Apparently we had been in the water so long that they had come and gone while we were diving :(  Bastard.  We were both disgustingly hot when we got out of the water.  Rob went back in for a swim in his drysuit, but I just couldn't stand being in my suit any longer, so I changed into my swimsuit in the car (while perhaps flashing everyone in the vicinity of the turkey roost) and went to meet him.  Brrr.  As hot as I was,  the water was still painfully cold!  After a very short swim, we got out and got going.  We stopped by EE, which was closed, but Doug and Mark were both lurking out back, so we chatted with them briefly before heading back to the Country Inn, where we finally found Ted.

1 comment:

Lynne said...

I do so love your dive reports -- they remind me so often of me and Peter, and the arguments we get into underwater.