This trip report covers an NMT Caving Club to the Guadalupe Mountains. Note that this trip report was written 9(!) years after the trip took place, making the author feel quite old indeed.
Trip leader: David Hunter
Attending: Joe, Candace, Rodrigo, Kaci, Lee, Stacy, Rodrigo, Anthony, Molly, and Steve.
During the various high points of the New Mexico Tech Caving club we would go south to the Guadalupe Mountains, "The Guads." One such trip took place in December of 2007. We drove to The Guads on Friday and found a nice and cold place to camp up in the mountains. On Saturday about half of the group went to the nearby Carlsbad Caverns National Park for an enjoyable day of playing tourist. The other half of the group, along with the only available experienced Guads caver, went to Hidden Cave. Then, on Sunday, the those that went to Carlsbad went to Pink Dragon Cave (with the experienced Guads caver) while the others went to Carlsbad.
Permits are required for entry to these caves. Prior to the trip your trip leader must obtain them from the proper authority, which is generally the owner of the cave. Most of The Guads is either National Forest, National Park Service, or Bureau of Land Management. As these caves are very fragile and potentially dangerous you should find an experienced caver to guide you. I recommend contacting the nearest NSS Grotto if you want to go caving.
The Guads are one of the best caving areas in the world. In addition to Carlsbad Caverns there are thousands of other caves, the most impressive of which is Lechugilla Cave. The mountains are very rugged and travel off of paved roads in treacherous. The dirt access roads range from bad to worse. The better parts of the roads are sometimes traversable by intrepid cavers in a Subaru, but most of the time you will want a four wheel drive. For this trip we had the green jeep (later seen in the 2016 Malpais Mudpits trip), a truck, and another jeep drive by a caver that wanted to learn something about 4WD (he did).
Hiking in The Guads is also difficult unless you have a good trail like that up Guadalupe Peak. As there is no trail to Pink Dragon Cave we got in some painful hiking through yucca, agave, and cactus.
On Saturday I took the vertical trained cavers to Hidden Cave. The entry is a short vertical drop, maybe 70ft. It is an ideal first cave for novice vertical cavers. Here we are looking up at the entry from the inside.
You do not want this formation to fall on your head. I am guessing that it is at least 10ft long and 18in wide.
The bright blur is the camera flash reflecting off of a dust mote near the camera lens.
Candace is climbing up and over an obstacle. Yes, the trail in the cave does actually go up and over here - she is not off trail.
This formation stood out as being pristine despite the surrounding mod. Remember, stalactites stick tight to the ceiling and stalagmites might have stuck tight but they didn't, and stalactites that don't stick tight fall on your head.
Having explored the cave we are now climbing out. For novice vertical cavers it is a slow process, and it is important to have somebody double check everything before you start up the rope. Everything is going smoothly and Candace is making good progress out of the cave
He seems happy enough now.
For those of you not familiar with vertical caving, he had two ascenders locked on to the rope keeping him safe when this picture was taken.
Another caver demonstrates a more calm and rational approach to ascending.
Everybody safely exited Hidden Cave and returned to camp to meet the cavers that visited Carlsbad.
The next day I took the other group of (non-vertical) cavers to Pink Dragon cave while the first group went to Carlsbad. The hike to Pink Dragon was the usual hike over sharp rocks while trying to avoid sharp bushes and going around sharp cacti. After making the usual blood donation to the yucca we made it safely to the cave. At least one caver is surprised that survived the onslaught of the yucca.
The namesake for Pink Dragon Cave. A better picture taking at a better angle might show how it kind of looks like a dragon. But I tend to see it as just a cool cave formation.
After enjoying our time in Pink Dragon Cave we returned to the cars, traversed the rather rough road, and regrouped with the cavers that had been in Carlsbad. Everybody had a good trip and returned safely to Socorro.