The third week of our field season will be spent in Natural Trap Cave, which is a wonderful Pleistocene fossil locality.
The only problem is that is it a cave.
And a natural trap.
See, the locality is at the bottom of the cave, at the end of an 80 foot long rope. And I have to be able to get in and out again.
Getting in is easy. Many animals have succeeded in this, which is why it’s such a great place to look for fossils. Alas, humans are the only terrestrial mammals to ever escape from the trap. And this involves climbing a rope.
Getting down a rope is relatively easy. Rappeling is a technique that is pretty simple to learn, although potentially terrifying and not without great risks.
Climbing up a rope takes more effort because you’re working against gravity. There are lots of methods available, including ‘frogging’ and what’s called the ‘yo-yo’ method. Both are featured in this (very unspectacular) video.
I have become acquainted with both methods and find that I prefer the yo-yo method.
Of course, to do any of this requires a whole bunch of equipment. Luckily, I don’t have to supply all of the equipment, but here’s what I’ll be using.
1) Static ropes (2). One for going up and down, and one for clipping in for safety.
2) A climbing harness
3) A chest harness (needed for frogging)
4) A helmet.
5) Many, many carabiners. Absolutely necessary to attach oneself to the ropes and various bits of safety equipment.
6) Loops of webbing, which have many uses. Useful for ascending and rappeling are the “two-shoulder” length or 120cm.
7) Ascenders, at least one with a handle (for the yo-yo method) or two (for frogging)
8) Grigri device, for the yo-yo method, and also for rappeling
9) ATC belay/rappel device, specifically for rappeling. If you have a Grigri, you don’t need this.
10) Autostop cord, as a backup if your rappeling device should fail.
Today, I learned how to use all of these things. I purchased for myself a Grigri, some carabiners, two webbing loops, and an autostop cord. The rest of these items are going to be supplied.
Hopefully, my new skills will help me get into and (more importantly) out of the cave. ‘Cause I’m going to be awful lonely if I get stuck down there forever.