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Exploring Virgin Cave in Ricks Springs Utah
I'm sure for many of you that live full time in cave country or other areas around the world where there are numerous underwater caves found, exploring a virgin cave is not a once in a life time event! For a small group of tight knit Utah cave divers, Ricks Spring is a dream come true. You may recall reading an article in the CDS magazine last year concerning the ongoing exploration of Ricks Springs in Logan Canyon, Utah. Of course compared to Wakulla or other major exploration projects, Ricks is of little consequence in the overall scheme of things, but having a diveable cave within a couple of hours of home is absolutely fantastic!
We have been pushing this cave over the past 3 years. Originally dived by Wendell Nope and Richard Lamb, the Ricks exploration team now consist of 9 people: Wendell Nope, Richard Lamb, Tom Lamb, Matt Mimnaugh, Tibby Petrescue, Mike Robinson, Joshua Thornton, Michael Thornton, & Randy Thornton.
As a high flow, high altitude fresh water spring, diving Ricks is a challenge in many ways. It is only divable during certain months of the year due to excessive flow! When I say flow, I mean during spring run-off times, you can't even make it in the entrance let alone make any headway in the cave! Probably the biggest challenge is the water temperature. 40 degrees is cold by anyone's standards, and cave diving in this environment certainly appeals to only the most vigorous divers! Dry suits, thick hoods and gloves make virtually every aspect of laying line in virgin passageway a challenge. Additionally, smoothed scolloped surfaces with few legitimate tie off points make for line laying challenges.
About 1500 feet into the cave, you hit a dry section which then requires climbing up a waterfall section and portage through about 300 additional feet of dry/wet limestone area to the next section of going underwater cave. As of yesterday, with the teams assistance, Josh and Michael Thornton added about 300 feet of additional passage making explored passage past the dry section about 700-750 feet, for a total of approximately 2200 feet of cave explored. (rough estimate, as at some point we will go back an do a legitimate measurement!) According to Josh and Michael, the new unexplored passage became extremely silty as the percolation dislodged silt resting in the scolloped cups on the sides of the cave and viz when from 100 feet to 2 inches!
Run times for exploring the end of lines at this point are running in the 2 to 2 1/2 hour range, so you can imagine how cold the divers are when exiting the cave in these temperatures! The divers usually require help removing their equipment and getting out of the water at that stage because they are so wiped out!
The cave is definitely sidemount access. There are some very large passages, but also some restrictions that just wouldn't allow for backmount access. Yesterday, in order to continue past the dry section, the push team staged cylinders at the dry section so that they could use just their primary LP 85s in the new section without having to worry about extra stages in the large crack that is currently being explored.
Last year the CDS donated some gold line to be installed. Less than a year later, parts of the gold line already need to be repaired, and we hope to work on that project in the next few weeks as well as improve the routing in a few places. Past the dry section there is only exploration line in place for now, but the team is hoping to install more gold line later this fall. Hopefully, if I can figure out how to get my housing through the cave safely, I'll post some pictures of the inside later this fall.
Great Job to you and the team.
Great thread, enjoyed the read and always enjoy reading about different caves. Really enjoyed the article in the CDS rag, looking forward to the part II.
Yeah, Wendell Nope wrote it. He did a nice job.
Originally Posted by SuPrBuGmAn
This thread was enjoyable too!
Wow, Utah's own Wookey's Hole. Great read, thanks!
Ricks Exploration Update:
Tuesday Sept 22nd-
Josh Thornton, Matt Mimnaugh and Amy Smith ran up to Ricks for a quick dive. Amy ended up volunteering to clear rocks from the entrance for an hour (MANY THANKS!) while Matt and Josh went on what was to be a leisurely dive. The dive was full of the usual excitement in being in a barely known cave, and the awe of the 100+ ft of viz.
Getting to the first dry section (1300 ft.), Matt and I still had plenty of gas and decided to climb Wayne’s Waterfall and haul our cylinders to the Moon Pool (1600 ft) and see if we couldn’t make it to the end of the line. We picked up the reel that Michael and I left a few weeks ago and started looking.
Matt swam with the reel in the direction I thought was the way to go, only to hit a dead end. At that moment we both looked up and saw air above us. I think it is safe to say that we both thought this was most likely another small air space as seen in previous areas of the cave. Seconds later I notice water running into the space right above us. At that moment I new this had to be another dry section similar to the first, which was about 750 feet behind us (rough estimate). I signaled Matt and we headed towards it.
As we popped our heads up, I can’t explain the feeling that rushes through not only your mind, but also your whole body as one lays their eyes on such a beautiful cave, a cave that no one had ever seen before. Not missing a beat Matt and I ripped off our fins and started up the rocks.
I came around the corner to find Matt awestruck looking up and to the left. “Now THAT’S a waterfall!” he said, as I looked up. That moment might very well qualify as the most exciting moment in my diving life. A stunning 20 ft over hung waterfall spilled into a 10 ft pool of crystal clear water. We were like two boys in a candy shop!
After exploring the second dry section we now have 2 different ways to go. The first would be up the waterfall- we shinned our lights up into a large room where the water enters the dry section. The second will be another source of water with an entrance similar to the original entrance to Ricks. We “poked our heads” back about 50 ft into this passageway, and it looks promising.
Although we only added another 30-50 ft of line from where Michael and I explored last time, this dive was a huge success. Of course Michael was excited to hear about it, but a little upset that we barely missed it last time. The visibility was a decent 10-15 ft on the way out, which we can’t complain about. Without any survey work done past the first dry section Matt and I estimate that total penetration, including the second dry section is around 2500 ft.
And no worries, we aren’t slowing down. We are planning on another expedition this Saturday. This will be our first try at taking a full camera setup (housing, arms & strobes) in and past the dry section. Any tips or pointer would be appreciated! We hope to get some decent photos of the “real waterfall” in Ricks.
Congrats on pushing the cave even farther this week. I'm looking forward to this Saturday! Hope we can get some decent pictures!
I guess I need to add these guys to the sumpdiver forum
Forrest Wilson (with 2 Rs)
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