Monday, September 24, 2007

The cave, part 2 (and a bit more fieldwork)

I headed back to Nevada for one last gasp of field work before the quarter starts. I've been trying to coordinate with a grad student, Peter from UNLV who works on rocks in Sheep Pass Canyon. However, other, slightly more rational folks than I, don't work in Nevada in the middle of July. So, once again, I got on an airplane and flew to Las Vegas. Remember the picture of Paul and hammer in front of cool conglomerates interfingered with limestone? Of course you do! Same section, but much more goal-oriented this time around. The grand goal was to get samples through the 1 km+ thick section in four days. We almost made it; I think we made it through ~700 meters of section. Poor weather that dumped early snow in the Sierras mostly just rained on us all morning Saturday. We tried to wait it out, but left when we realized if it continued, we wouldn't be able to drive out the road. While it did cut short the field work, the rain was useful for a couple of things: I realized I need to re-seamseal my tent, and my raincoat needs to be re-waterproofed. Also, I got to use my pick to scrape mud from the tires, to improve traction down the road, and it always makes me feel better about flying with bulky, heavy tools if they serve multiple purposes.

Sunday, Peter's friend Mike joined us and we went caving in nearby Whipple Cave. I've been in a couple of caves before, but nothing quite like this. The cave formed in fractured Cambrian limestone, and most of the passageways are the result of dissolution along these fractures. The opening is a hole in the ground, so you have to rappel down into the cave, and then ascend the rope to get out. Though the gear is a little different, the basic idea for both rappelling and ascending are the same as climbing, so I finally got to use the skills I learned for climbing out of a crevasse. Actually quite fun. We spent a good three hours seeing all that we could of the cave, and then headed back to Las Vegas and I headed home.
Entrance to the cave: Happy, happy!
Edges of empty pools; I've seen a few pictures on the internet with these pools full.
This kind of stalactite formation always reminds me of the stylized paintings of steep, Chinese hillsides with draping trees and mist.
Popcorn "formations"

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