Friday, July 12, 2013

#2013-39 The El Capitan Caves to Craig

We launched the tender this morning and speeded the 6 miles back up the Pass to the El Capitan Cave US Forest Service float.  We were just a couple minutes late for the 9:30AM tour so Bill let out a caveman yell and one of the Forest Rangers came back down to get us.  We were issued cave helmets complete with LED headlamps and started our hike up the roughly 400 step staircase to the entrance.  Thanks to our USFS tour guide for occasionally stopping allowing us to catch our breath, we made it up to the gated cave for the cave exploring safety session.  Soon we were in pitch blackness except for helmet headlamps.
Bill in four weather gear and helmet
 is ready for cave exploring.
The tour moves inward some 600 yards.  Most of it fairly walk-able but sometimes handholds are needed. One goes from bending and crouching through narrow, low passages, to standing tall in cave rooms with 50-foot ceilings. The temperature hovers around 40 F inside, and moisture drips from the rock walls and ceiling.  The guides talk geology for those interested, claiming that based on fossils found, the cave was created in the central latitudes before ending up north in Alaska, millions of years ago.

Inside with headlamps on.
Cool formations when exposed to light.
The puddle requires wading the knee deep water to get deeper.
This is where the cave tour ends, but with ropes and a long piece
of string, you could probably go another mile or so.
Our USFS guide Jennifer and Dale.
It's still 400 stair steps down to ground level.
By noon we are back at the boat with tender stowed and on our way to Craig.  We made it before 8PM and got a spot at the dock.

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