Monday, May 15, 2017

Newberry-Banes Cave System, VA

Deirdre Conroy in Bills Rappel.




           Newberry-Banes is one of Virginia's finest caves.  It has some large passage and several pits that range from 60ft to 205ft.  Most of them look like true TAG classic shafts.  The system is essentially two levels, with Newberry on top and Banes a couple hundred feet lower, they connect via vertical shafts or shaft complexes.  

           The Newberry Entrance is a small hole that takes a stream when it rains.  For us, in mid May following two weeks of heavy rain, there was a nice waterfall that soaked us on the way in.  The drop is about 65ft and goes over several ledges.  The Newberry section of the cave is mostly walking/stoop walking stream passage or crawling.  A junction in the stream passage near the entrance leads to the two main areas of the cave.

           Turning left will take you to Triple Wells.  The route is almost all crawling and is about 600ft.  As the guidebook says, from the left-turn at the junction you keep making right turns at every junction you reach.  The junctions are spread between crawls varying from 50 to 200ft long.  And there are elephant tracks and the occasional cairn.  Eventually you crawl to a 6ft drop in the floor into a canyon passage.  Another twnety feet and you'll see a bolt on the right wall.  This is the start of the traverse out to the Triple Wells rig point.  Around the bend the passage floor drops 50ft to a stream and then another 150ft down Triple.  The rig point is around the bend and is two bolts.  The traverse is easy, but we rigged a line anyways because there is over 200ft of exposure.  About 50ft down is a bolt for a re-direct.  Rigging this with a standard 11mm PMI pit rope means you wont need pads.  Triple Well is 205ft free, and it is spectacular.  The pit is oval shaped, 10 by40ft at the top and fully 30 by 80 at the bottom, all of it is finely fluted walls.  I only did the first 50ft before the waterfall began hitting me and I changed over and called it off.  Normally the pit is dry.

           Turning right at the original junction and following the stream takes you to Bills Rappel.  After a couple hundre feet of stream and several downclimbs over waterfalls the stream drops 120ft down the Straddle Pit.  The Straddle Pit is usually crossed over (but it can be rappeled).  We rigged a traverse line to the bolts.  Beyond this is an upclimb and then a 30ft nuisance drop to the top of Bills Rappel.  Bills Rappel is a spectacular 165ft shaft that looks a lot like South Pittsburg Pit in Tennessee.  It maintains its dimensions of roughly 70x20ft for the whole drop.  Rigging is off some large boulders on the main platform.  Take care, there is a LOT of loose rock on the one side of the pit.

Tony Canike at the top of Bills Rappel.

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