Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Friars Hole Cave System

As of 2016 the longest cave in West Virginia at just over 46.5mi.

           Friars Hole Cave System stretches across southern Pocahontas and northern Greenbrier Counties under the western flanks of Droop Mountain.  It is a major cave system and contains no less than three separate drainages producing "watersheds" within the cave.  The cave has ten entrances, five of which are closed legally or physically; and all but one are vertical shaft, or shaft complexes, leading to the base level passages.

          The system began to join as one in the 1960s when Lew Bicking connected Snedegars Cave and Crookshank Hole.  Bicking later discovered Friars Hole Cave in the 1960s.  In the late 1970s cavers entered the newly washed open Rubber Chicken Cave.  Landowner relations with Rubber Chicken quickly forced them to find a connection to Crookshank Pit, which they right after connecting with Friars Hole Cave.  Also at the same time a major break out to the north in Canadian Hole led to miles of large passages, it eventually connected to the main system in 1977.  Finally, Toothpick Cave was connected when cavers bypassed a low near siphon and found miles of passages that eventually became upstream Rubber Chicken Cave.

Line plotted map of the Friars Hole Cave System


          Caving in the 1960s-1970s was not the high tech hobby of today.  Clothing usually consisted of jeans and jackets, lights were carbide powered with poor electric lights as backups.  Further, Friars Hole contains miles of passages that are low crawls, nearly or completely filled with water, or both.  That cavers back then were able to push the connections and make the system total over 35mi was, and is, an incredible feat.

          Since the 1980s work in the system has greatly decreased following a death in the Canadian Hole entrance series.  Work does still continue however in far downstream Friars Hole and in the far remote ends of Rubber Chicken. 

          My involvement in Friars Hole has been strictly photographic based thus far, and primarily has been in Friars Hole, Crookshank-Snedegars, Rubber Chicken, and some in Canadian Hole.  It is my favorite cave, and one where I feel truly at home in. 

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