2005 Sinks of Gandy Camping Caving Trip

Now that I have returned from my week long camping/caving trip,
I thought I would do alittle write up on some of the gear that was used, and what I thought about its performance.
I will also include general comments and suggestions about some things I have learned during my trips.

— Location ——-
First off, lets talk alittle bit about the where I went.
Me and two buddies went to Glady West Virginia, about a 2 hour drive to camp from my house.

This was our third year in a row for this trip.
Its a great for camping, hiking, caving, etc. There are 3 caves within about 30 minutes of our camping spot. Which was the focus of our time spent there.

— Camp ——-
Each of us had our own tents to sleep in, which were setup first.
Shelter should always be one of the main priorities on any camping adventure,  and I like to get it setup early on. We tied up two large tarps overhead. This served us very well,
as it rained at least 4 times during our stay.
I have also noticed this helps to keep the tents and other gear alittle cleaner.
Alot of dirt, dust, and other small tree fragments fall in the course of a weeks stay,
which was evident when looking on top the tarp.

— The Caves ———–
We went to 3 caves on out trip.
Sinks of Gandy Cave
Stele (sp?) House Cave – this is sorta part of Sinks cave, but doesn’t connect. AFAIK
Bowden Cave – very extensive, lots of ways in, not all connect.

Sinks of Gandy cave is basically an underground stream.
You can see the stream just disappear, and reappear on aerial photos,
as it passes through the mountain.

Heres where the water runs out.

Bowden was a first for us this year, so everything was a new adventure, makes it alot of fun.
and we barely explored it, theres much much more to see.

Here are just a few highlights,

Here is just inside, seems they had the cave gated off a while back.
Bet that didnt last long though.

As you can see, some places in caves can get very tight.
Little un-nerving, crawling a few hundred feet, with this HUGE flat slab of rock over you.

Buts its usually worth it, here is a hallway it opened up into.

You can see that all the stalagmites in this cave have been broken off, and taken.
But they are still very cool!

At the end of one hallway, we found a ladder !
We thought maybe we found another entrance, but that wasnt the case.

This is me, looking up into a huge hole in the ceiling,  this is just off to the left of the previous ladder photo.

Well, we just had to see what was up that ladder, so…

This is what we find. Seems its another huger hole in the ceiling.
I guess I shouldnt say hole, since the top is not open. We think its a sink hole of sorts.

Heres the two friends that went with me on the trip. Trying to get a better hot of this huge sink hole.

Here is the main caving Gallery index:
— Photography ———
Taking photos was a big part of the trip.
Between the three of us, we took over 4000 photos, and 70 video clips. About 1200 of those photos were for a couple time lapse shots we did. Time Laspe works by taking many photos over a long period of time, at a set interval. Those photos are then played back as frames in a video.
Here is one we did on the trip, http://www.jtice.com/home_movs/time_lapse/megafire.wmv
It consists of 845 photos taken over a 3 to 4 hour period. Those photos are then played back at 12 frames/photos per second.
Here are a couple others we have done.
Candle Burning Down – http://www.jtice.com/home_movs/time…candle_burn.wmv
Clouds – http://www.jtice.com/home_movs/time_lapse/clouds1.avi

Most of the photos were taken with a Canon A95 digital camera.
These are excellent cameras and I really cant say enough good things about them.

One of the techniques that we use in the cave photos is called “Painting”.
We set the cameras up for long exposure, 8 to 15 seconds. We then “paint” light onto the walls of the cave while the cameras shutter is open. The photo can be made surprisingly bright with relatively small flashlights.
In the larger rooms we sometimes used the X990 35 Watt Hid Spotlight. Which at times, was TOO much light. A Coleman gas lantern was also used in some of the Painting shots. You can identify it by its deep red/orange color.

Here are some examples of them we have done,
from a variety of caves.

No Flash was used in any of those photos.
All were done with 8 to 15 second exposures, most using the Coleman lantern and LED modded Maglights.

Heres some shots of the laptop rig all hooked up. I think this was right before one of our time lapses.

And a couple shots of the just ridiculously large camp fire.

— Photography Related Gear ——–
I decided to take my laptop on this trip, mainly due to the amount of photos we were taking, which quickly filled our 1GB cards, and so that we could sit back each nigh and look at the ones we took that day. So if there was anything we wanted to do differently the next day, we could look at the photos and determine what needed changed.

I also purchased an Apacer cd211 Portable hard drive for the trip. Although I ended up not using it, since the laptop was with me. The Apacer is basically a portable laptop hard drive enclosure, with a builtin Li_Ion battery, that has a small display, and a few buttons. It allows you to create folders that you can copy files in and out of. It has whats called OTG USB (On The Go) This is a fairly new technology, that lets the Apacer read and copy data off just about any USB device. You can simply connect your digital camera to it, hit a couple buttons, and your photos are now copied. I like to use a small USB card reader with it, instead of plugging in the camera. I think it is alittle faster that way, and it also saves battery life on the camera.

— Lighting Equipment ————–
heh, you knew this was coming, after all, its dark in those caves you know?

I brought a ton of lights with me, and probably didnt use half of them.
I will give my impressions on the ones we used the most.

— Surefire U2
This is my normal EDC light. So naturally, I took it along on the trip.
It was used a good bit around camp, and on a couple small night hikes. I cant say enough good things about this light, it works so well in many applications.
However, I did not take it in the caves. Even though it would have made an Excellent caving light.
I knew that it would come out scratched up pretty badly, and I had other lights I could use for the caves.
Here is my review of the Surefire U2,

— Promagnum Maglight mod by Lambda.
One of my buddies on the trip used the Promagnum as his primary light in the caves.
We were running it off 2 D 10,000 mAh Nimh cells. Runtime is very very flat, and im guessing around 4 hours or so. The light took a good beating and kept of shinning. I always make sure that all my lights have clean, well lubed orings,  this helps alot to ensure water tight seals for the orings.
One problem I had with the Promag was that it has no “Moon Mode”
The runtime is so flat, that it give you no warning the batteries are getting low.
It will simply ficker for a few seconds, and go completely out. This is not all that great for caving, since you dont have at least a dim glow to help you find your new batteries.
I machined a lanyard attachment for most my Mag mods, including the Promag,
this maked things alot easier in the caves.
There are alot of places that if you dropped something, you would Not be getting it back.

— Streamlight 3C Lux
This was my primary cave light.
I find the 2D mags alittle large and heavy most the time. The SL 3C performed perfectly, and was perfect for caving. Its totally water tight, light weight for its size, have a large clip,  and runs 5 to 5.5 hours of very flat runtime on 3 C cells. And it also has some Moon Mode to it. Even though it drops in brightness very fast at the end,  it still gives you a while to get situated, and get your next set of batteries out. Although, I found that I never had to changed the batteries in the cave. 5 hours was just right for our trips, and I simply recharged the cells over night.
The Polymer (plastic) body of the SL 3C actually holds up much better than any HAIII light I have used.
HAIII is tough, but its no mach for a cave. I have scratched HAIII off quite easily while crawling around in caves. The Polymer bodies do scratch, and the black lettering came off, but it just seems to be less noticeable.

This is another major winner when it comes to caving lights.
The UK LED isnt very bright, especially in normal outdoor situations. But you need much light than you think you do in a cave. Your eyes are very night adapted, and make something like an Arc LS seem like a spotlight. The UK 4AA LED is also completely water tight, and made of a Polymer type material. Best of all, it will run 10 hours on a set of batteries !!! I love taking one of these as my backup light.

My UK 4AA LED Review: http://www.jtice.com/review/lights/uk_4aa_led/

— X990
While this isnt a light you really want to be taking in a cave,
I just had to try it for the painting photos. This thing will LIGHT up a cave.
Most the time we could simply point it at the ceiling, and the reflected light would fill the entire room.
Which is what we did for some of the painting shots, sometimes the X990 was actually way too much light to work with. On our last night, we actually had another group of college kids camp out near us. My buddy wanted to play with… er, experiment, with the X990 alittle,  looking up through the tall trees, and smoke from the camp fire. The X990 wasnt on more than 30 seconds when we heard “Damn thats a bright ass light!” hehehehe just gotta love it.

Heres a vid of us using it in the cave.
This does not do the X990 justice at ALL. The digicam doesnt like low light situations,  it takes ALOT of light in the caves to see anything at all. This doesnt show the side spill at all, which was about as bright as the Coleman lantern.


My X990 Review: http://www.jtice.com/review/lights/x990/

— Arc AA
This may be a surprise to you, but the Arc AA, being the dimmest light I took with me, was again, for the third year in a row, the absolute favorite light of the group. I assign an Arc AA with neck lanyard to each of my buddies each year. And they talk about how much they like them, the entire time.
They are more than enough light to get you out of a cave in emergency, they are great for quick trips to the “restroom”, and were used around camp ALOT.
You get a good 8 to 10 hours of light from them, and they are pretty bright for their size.
I know we all like bright lights, but you have to admire them for what they are.
You can easily walk through the woods with one, and clearly see where you are going. I was even surprising myself, at night after I was completely night adapted, I was lighting up trees at least 75 feet way. An excellent light for small tasks, like filling up your mug at the keg at the edge of camp
Many times you dont want a bright light for quick tasks, so you dont ruin your night vision.

— Electrical / Charging Equipment. ————-
I had about 30 Nimh AA cells, 12 D nimh cells, 3 C Nimhs cells, 12 Li-Ion cells, and a 12V SLA with me.
So, needless to say, I needed some charging power.

First I ran a cable back to the bed of the truck, took a Pelican case, and make a multiple power connection for it. I should have ran a bit larger cable for this, for future projects, but I had only a day left to do it, and this was all I had handy. But it worked really well for these inverters.

     There are 5 sets of screw terminals, the one main large set via wingnuts, and the cig plug. Should cover most all the bases.

Here is the connection box ran over to my buddies bed, this is another reason I made it like this.
I knew that we would probably want the stuff setup in his truck, since it has the camper to, to better protect it from the rain. What a mess…

     I took two power inverters. One was a small 150 Watt one that ran off a cig lighter plug.
This did fine for running the Vanson chargers. and even the Pila charger, all at once.
I also took a 650 Watt one, that has larger leads, and a builtin fan. I tried not to use this one much, since I dont think it is as effecient.

The X990 battery and the Laptop were the big problems. Even the small 150 W inverter could charge one at a time… IF, the truck was Running! The voltage would drop from the trucks battery too much if it wasnt running,  the inverters would trigger thier protection, and shut down.

So, for about 40 Minutes each night, I had to run my truck as a generator of sorts.
Well, that got old quick, I didnt like burning up the gas, or putting the “miles” on my engine. So. I bought a small gas powered generator as soon as I got home. I will not use this very often, nor will it need to power alot. So I couldnt justify buying a very nice one. I purchased this one off ebay for $115.
I have only tested it alittle, but it seems to work fine. It starts very easy, usually the first pull. Weighs about 50 lbs, and has a handle. Nice and portable. Its no terribly loud, what you would expect for an engine that size. Think is was rated for 57 dB at 7 meters away.

— Storage ————
I am fairly picky about how I store my gear.
I have two foot locker type boxes that I kept most the camping, hiking, and some electronics in. All of the smaller electronics, such as cameras, GPS, walkie talkies, lights, etc, are kept in water tight cases that I found in the hunting section at Walmart. They were only $13 and have a rubber seal in the lid, with a nice rubberized carry handle.
I am also a big fan of Pelican cases. They are able to withstand anything I throw at them. I have had them in caves, drug through the mud, bashed off rocks, and thrown back in a stream of water. Grab it up, open it up, and its perfectly dry inside ever single time. They are a must for carrying things like cameras in situations where water, mud or crunching could be a factor.

— Tips and Tricks ——————
Heres just a couple misc comments I have on things.

– Bring ALOT of rope, paracord, etc.
We wished that we had a good bit more rope when putting up, and repairing the tarps.

– We found some nails in a pile of ash from previous fires,
which gave me an idea. I found a few good ones, and pounded them into the posts that we used for our tarps. This came in very handle for drying things out, and keeping things off the ground. Also helped to store things, especially things we kept using often. Next time, I will be bringing a ton of nails myself. Just remember to take them back out with you, or discard of them properly.

– When going caving.
Always have a nice headlamp, I find a flood beam is best. I use a PT Conona.
Have a nice hand light, that has a good bit of throw. I use a StreamLight 3C Lux
And have a small backup light with you, with great runtime. I use a UK 4AA LED.
oh, and extra batteries.

– Even though theres usually lots of water in a cave,
you cant drink it, bring plenty of water with you.