Trip leader: David Hunter
Attending: Melissa, Tierra, Eshani, John, and Connor
Sadly, this will probably be the last NMT Caving Club trip I will lead as a real student; I finished my masters degree, and graduated at the end of the summer semester. I will continue to support the club. And, depending on where I end up, I may try to lead more trips. But I hear that there is life outside of Socorro, and I need go check for myself...
The entry restrictions to Fort Stanton Cave have not changed since the May 2017 trip. I had put in a proposal to help the BLM manage the cave by continuing the trail work that we started last year, and received 6 entries.
As outlined in the BLM-approved proposal that granted us entry to the cave, our primary goals were trail maintenance in the entry sink, and then trail marking between the end of Hell Hole and Hall of Velvet. You may want to refer to the Fort Stanton Cave Map, and note the distance back to Hall of Velvet. A secondary goal was introducing new people to the cave, and training future cavers in the cave. With my departure, I hope that some of them will continue to lead NMT Caving Club trips into Fort Stanton Cave.
The entry trail constantly needs maintenance due to the rain washing down into the entry sink. We removed the mud and gravel that washed down, and cleared the weeds off the trail.
The group at the main gate, ready for the long trip back to Keyhole Gate and Platter Room. While the surface distance is not great, traveling the same distance inside the cave is several times more difficult. There is a lot of hands & knees crawling, a bit of belly crawling, and numerous slippery mud slopes. Everybody is also carrying several liters of water to assist with the ongoing restoration efforts in Trophy Room - and to make the crawl through Hell Hole that much more fun.
After the long crawl through Hell Hole we stashed the restoration water, and several people needed a break. Eshani, of course, had a substantially easier time than the rest of us, walking & running where we had to crawl...
Shown here is one of the many formations in Platter Room. Until the Lincoln Caverns subsection of Fort Stanton Cave was found, the area through Keyhole Gate was the best decorated part of the known cave. Between the BLM managing access to the cave, and the long crawl to get here, this section of the cave has been better preserved. And, until recently, the public could access the area with a Hell Hole permit; hopefully public access to this part of the cave is one day restored. While beginning cavers find the crawl to be a long ways back, it was always worth the effort.
Eshani was most pleased to find a formation taller than herself. The trail markers we installed can be seen in the background. While it took a few more markers than we like, this section of the cave has had a lot of trouble with people getting off route.
Helictite Hall, named for the large number of helictites. Of course, most of the formations aren't helictites, but there are a lot of them.
As you enter Helictite Hall, you have to stoop down to avoid hitting the fragile formations on the ceiling. If the cave is ever reopened to the public, it might be worth adding a sign at the entry.
What is up with Connor and his expressions?
Sombrero Room's namesake. Opinions vary as to how much it really looks like a sombrero...
Remember: stalactites stick tight to the ceiling; stalagmites might have been tight, but they weren't.
Cave velvet, after which Hall of Velvet was named, is rare. As seen here, it is covering the flowstone between Hall of Velvet and Helictite Hall.
Everybody had a great time, and this trip was a wonderful way to finish up my time as NMT Caving Club president. I hope that I will be able to report on future NMT Caving Club trips...