Beyond the Back Scratcher in Crevice Cave

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Crevice Cave, Perry County Missouri

Surveying up the Back Scratcher               by Chad McCain

 Today I met up with Michael Bradford, Josh Hafner, Gary Resch, Edmund Tucker, and Brian Biggs at Echo pit. We have been locked out of this entrance to Crevice Cave for over two years and we were all excited to get back to our survey’. We basically got locked out after the grotto sculpin endangered species listing came into light in Perry County.


We started entering the cave by 8:45 AM and shortly after 9:00 AM we were heading upstream towards our end of survey. We got to the point where the original Survey started over two years ago and discussed our game plan. We agreed to meet back up at the intersection between 6:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Gary, Edmund and Brian headed up into their lead while I took the rest upstream to the tributary I had been surveying.


Within no time we were at the 160’ long belly crawl which emerges in the 20’ high canyon we would be surveying. There was a significant amount of airflow going through the crawl away and that gave us hope that we may find something new today.


Once we got started surveying it did not take long for us to survey 337.85’ into a flowstone choke past a very tight squeeze. The passage ended with 1 inch of airspace over the water and you could see approximately 10 feet under the flowstone but it was a construction all the way with no airflow at all. Leading up to this point the passage dimensions were approximately 20 feet high and anywhere from 3 to 5 feet wide at the widest point but the passage was very convoluted and choked with many formations from top to bottom. There were steep mud banks everywhere with natural Bridges to climb over or under. An active stream meandered in and out of the walls carrying a small amount of water. Natural surface debris was found, including a 1.5” in diameter cedar limb which was approximately 3’ long.


In the area before the passage ended the canyon was still 20 feet tall and there were several natural bridges over our head at the ceiling level. We noted that all of the steam off of our bodies with being carried up in the ceiling area into what appeared to be an obvious crawl going over the flowstone constriction. It seemed to me that an easy climb would be possible to at least get my head up to where the crawl away is located if not all the way up in the crawl. After a couple minutes of planting my feet on muddy flowstone, I was all the way up to the natural Bridge and comfortably in position to start into the crawl way that bypasses the flowstone choke below.


I noted the airflow was significant at this point and the passage was approximately 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall. After approximately 20’ of crawling the canyon opened back up below with a sketchy mud coated down climb. It did not appear that a safe climbing route to the bottom was possible, but as we all know, it’s easier to climb up than to down climb. Especially down climb through a muddy canyon that you have never even climbed up. Holds were unknown and one slip would spell disaster.


Truth be told I did not investigate the possibility of climbing down very well at all, because I did not want an accident to happen this far back in the cave. The largest natural bridge at the climb up was 8-10” in diameter and I feel it should serve as a good anchor for rigging a rope in the future. Bringing vertical gear this far back into the crawlways is not going to be very much fun. As it stands, this is a third-order tributary in Crevice Cave with 20’ high passage, which could go on for a long ways.


We decided to end the survey and we left a permanent station on a stalactite on the right wall. We headed out and we got back to the meet up point where we left Gary and Edmund and Brian, and decided to start checking high leads. We found approximately 100 feet of upper passage that could be surveyed directly above this junction area, leading downstream towards the back scratcher. We found a second upper-level lead as well but it was a lot more difficult to climb up into. The last lead we check was a massive flowstone drapery that had water pouring in to the back scratcher passage, just a couple minutes upstream from the back scratcher.


We climbed into this area and photograph the flowstone cascade and were able to achieve some pretty decent results. I climbed to the top of the flowstone cascade after we were done taking photographs and found that a passage continued, but it was constricted with lots of formations and what are require a very delicate survey. A waterfall was also heard in the distance from where I stopped. We found several bats in this area and it seemed that it was high and dry and does not back flood when the entire passage floods. Where the bats are coming in has us all confused as the closest entrance we know of that they can get in here from is over 5 miles away.


On the way out of the cave we stopped to take photographs of several other areas including the large breakdown rooms upstream from Echo pit. We also checked the probability of doing a bolt climb to access a high Canyon trunk lead over the main passage that Bob Osborne checked out many years ago. Once we got back to Echo Pit, we started to put on our vertical gear and Edmund, Gary and Brian caught up with this before any of us had even gotten on rope and started climbing. I climbed 1st and had to retrieve Edmunds rope walker out of his car as he rappelled into the cave with no way to climb back up the rope. It was quite humorous and we all gave him a good ribbing over it.


Josh took his wetsuit top off so he could climb out easier. He fastened it to his pack which was below him and he climbed the pit all the way up to the culvert where I started talking to him. It was at that time the wet suit was dislodged from his pack due to the constrictions at the top of the pit. It fell all the way back down the pit and crashed into the ground below. Edmund and Gary thought somebody had fell and died. Once they got out we had a few good jokes about Obi-Wan Kenobi and Master Yoda being Jedi's and disappearing once they died. Josh must be a Jedi!!! Everyone was out by 9:15 PM, 12 1/2 hours in the cave. 


Gary-Edmund-Brian = 399.2'

Chad-Josh's-Michael = 337.85'

737.05' total of new survey


1004.5’ of survey from Paul Hauck, Richard Young and Ray Shaw, who came to the pit after we got started and surveyed from the bottom of the pit, upstream towards the Backscratcher.


30.2 miles total length. 


Famous words uttered on this trip

Dragging this pack sucks, I am buying a swaygo

Frogging echo pit sucks, I need a ropewalker!



Sketchy high lead climb to bypass the flowstone choke at the end of McCain's survey



Flowstone cascade lead upstream from the backscratcher.


Reflection pool lead above the flowstone cascade. Waterfall heard in the distance. Note the reflection of the ceiling in the pool of water, center of the photo


Rimstone pools in the flowstone cascade above the backscratcher passage.


Breakdown area upstream from Echo Pit


Breakdown upstream from Echo Pit


Breakdown area upstream from Echo Pit


Monday, February 16, 2015

Powered by
Privacy and Cookies Policy