Trip leaders: David Hunter, Tyler, and Eshani
Attending: Reece, and Evelyn
Sadly, the NMT Caving Club hasn't been very active since my graduation and departure. However, I was able to make it back there to help lead another beginners trip. Once again, we journeyed to El Malpais National Monument.
Tyler drove his suburban, which was a nice change from taking my Jeep or VW everywhere. And Tyler got to learn why I tend to call the area "The Malpais Mudpits." The roads have numerous slimy mud holes when the area is wet. When it is wet, don't try driving to the big tubes area if you don't know what you are doing.
We followed our trained tracker out toward the cave. He promptly went off-trail and got lost. At least, he couldn't pinpoint exactly where we were - which a certain fictional character defines as what lost means...
Once David pointed the group in the correct direction, we made it to the old collapsed lava tube that forms the cave.
Big Skylight cave is part of a much larger lava tube, most of which collapsed. What remains makes a cool (if short) cave. And a couple of natural bridges. As usual, the group enjoyed the natural bridge created by the collapsed lava tube.
Situational awarness is crucial when caving. Make sure not to back off the cliff while photographing a lizard.
The National Monument recently installed a sign to mark the main cave access route! I guess they heard about our trained tracker's navigational abilities...
The cave is a cold sink. During the winter, cool air pools in the deep, shady, depressions. There isn't enough sun to warm it up during the day. As a result, snow and ice tend to accumulate, especially during the winter. But, being New Mexico, it is not like they get much snow. Just enough to make things slick on our way in. Some cavers tried to keep their feet out of the snow on the way in...
There is a 2-level smaller passage in the back of the cave. It makes a couple loops, perfect for getting new cavers turned around. But short enough that it isn't hard to find your way back out.
Toward the back of the cave, Eshani noticed a flashlight and a knife dropped in a hole, out of the former owner's reach. Being a Sri-Lanken Micro Caver, she promptly dived in after them.
Toward the back of the cave there is another way out. There is a short climb to get up to it. And this time it was full of ice. We didn't try crawling out that way.