Fours =

Four People - Four Caves - twenty Four hours

April 24th and 25th 2004

The Crew:

  • Anya Obizhaeva
  • Katherine Rorschach
  • Tamara Knutsen
  • Jason LaPenta

    As very enthusiastic cave-explorers we started our trip at about 5.30 am. Before heading out from MIT and towards Albany, the land of caves, we crammed an enormous amount of gear into the back of Tamara's station wagon (thank god for station wagons). Light traffic and beautiful clear cool skies whisked us to Speleobooks by 9:30am, where we were greeted by Emily and her deceptively sweet devil cat. This full-grown cat, which is only slightly larger than a kitten, has been known to indulge in killing cats twice her size! As Jason carefully inched back towards the door, keeping a least one eye on the cat, the rest of the group looked over really cool cave-diving books. Gearing Up

    Our group consisted of two beginners Anya (for whom it was the first trip to the caves) and Katherine, more experienced Tamara and two professional guys Jason and Mike. After getting all necessary info, keys and permits from the NCC staff we drove a bit further to the countryside. The entrance to Ella Armstrong, which was the first cave in our list, is located in the forest just several meters from the road. Equipped as real cave-explorers we left our sunny world and started the descent to the underground wet and muddy world. We crawled into the narrow passage and then descended using our ropes to the lower level. We walked in the dark cave with spotlight of our head lamps illuminating nice mud formations and lovely bats hanging on the walls from the pitch blackness. I was really amused by this special world hidden under ground. Soon we were back to our sunny world. On the surface we met Stephane, French guy, who later joined us in exploring Albany caves. Mike Stephane

    Tamara, Mike, Jason, and Stephane (the visiting french dude) roped up Crossbones cave which starts with a very narrow vertical squeeze that opens up into the center of a 40 foot shaft. At the bottom a short crawl enters a small side room with a high ceiling. This is the epicenter of all the belly-crawing fun in a cave that can be described with one word `tightt'. Yes that is two t's for extra tightness. Our first goal was to rig a ladder to a medium sized lower level room, which we did quickly. Then it was off an exhausting 100', head-crunching, body-griding, belly crawl off to some rarely visited rooms containing many pristine formations. Not the type of place one would want to wear out their batteries, as Tamara did. No, worries, one can still crawl backwards in the dark. In the far room, several soda-straws had these really cool diagonal appendages making them look like fish-hooks. Extracting ourselves from this cave turned out to be even more difficult than the belly crawl. To safely accomplish this we sent one person up without gear, then had all the gear hauled out by rope. The last 4 feet of climbing is so tight that the frog system does not work. One just can not possibly bend one's knees. Crossbones

    Four tired cavers started out on what was going to be a short hop to finish up a perfect day with Clarksville. A cave, which I might add, Emily says you do not need a map to visit. Tamara, the only one of us who was seemingly conscious, snapped me out of my stupor to ask if sky-scrapers are really right next to the cave... Ooops. If you see large buildings.. then you have gone too far and need to turn around. But the people in Albany are very nice and very eager to give you exciting directions repeatedly. Just remember... turn at Stewarts! (no the direction does not matter) Jason

    Finally we made it to Clarksville, which we ran through in marathon time only doing the wet section, as their fearless leader was falling asleep (4 caves is 24 hrs... sure it is dooooable, and fun, but you will get tired).

    A quick stop off for dinner and warm rest-rooms with fancy flushable toilets made us ready for sleep, anywhere, but preferably atSchoharie Field House. Luck was with us and we found this cute cabin on the first try! Even better luck had the cabin pre-heated with a roaring fire by a group of boarding school girls from Connecticut. They were obviously much harder-core than us MIT softies as they were doing Schoharie at midnight, and sleeping outdoors in the open. Our luck was certainly with us that night because melted chocolate and marshmallows on gramcrackers appeared magically. Stephane had his very first smoragasm. Did you know they don't have marshmallows in France! Gesh!

    Saturday morning, the early bird squawked loudly 6-frigg'n am waking everyone up and forcing them into cold muddy cave gear for a delightful super-ninja trip through Schoharie cave. The water level was really low and never crept up above our thighs. Schoharie is a wonderful fun easy cave and I recommend it highly.

    by -
    Anya Obizhaeva and Jason LaPenta

    photos by -
    Mike Chu and Stephane Guignard