I started up and found I couldn't climb. My Gibbs ascenders had been impacted with mud. I had to stop, clean the teeth of the ascenders, put them back on, and continue climbing. This didn't take very long, nor the climb either, as my adrenalin had kicked in by now. On top, I called down for Betsy to come up. Rita passed this to Betsy. I set up a 5:1 pulley system using a Petzl Mini-Traxion, a handled ascender, a Bob & Bob two sheave two-inch double attachment pulley, a Petzl Rescue P50 two-inch single sheave pulley, a Rescue Systems one-inch pulley, and 60 feet of 8mm Blue Water II Plus rope. This was attached to the tree with a 28' spare 11mm rope. The single one-inch pulley allowed me to run the 20 feet of excess rope parallel to the 45° mud and leaf covered slope to a couple of rocks where I hoped we could stand for hauling. It was going to be up to me and two little women to haul 210 pounds of live but exhausted Pat out of the cave 120 feet.
Previous to setting out on our adventure, I explained to Eddie (manager at Thorn Spring Park) what we were caving, the 300' rappel, and to "come get us" if we did not show by 7:00 p.m. This left an impression on Eddie, since I have never asked him to take on this responsibility before.
At 6:00 p.m., Betsy climbed out and lay exhausted at my feet. I got her off rope and hydrated. I told Rita to put Pat on the number two rope (the Sterling) as it was the stronger of the two ropes and was positioned over the edge in the best place. The haul system was attached to the Sterling rope. Betsy asked me some good questions once topside. Once of which was, "Should she go down the 1/2 mile walk to the house across the street from where we came in and make sure the call went out to get more people?" I told her that I had several problems with that. One was that I absolutely needed three people to haul as a minimum. I would have liked to have eight people hauling. Pat sounded fine when talking to him but he had been given Rita's space blanket, so, she was probably getting cold. Eddie had been told 7:00 p.m. was the deadline and I would have to rely on that. Response time to rescue callouts for caving can take a long time. We needed to get Rita out as soon as possible and start hauling Pat out now. I was hoping with his good voice communications that he was going to recover from being exhausted and be able to ascend on his own during our hauling. Betsy agreed.
By 6:30 p.m., Rita climbed out. I found that she had mistakenly hooked up Pat on the number one rope. I had to then switch over the entire haul system from the number two rope to number one and reposition the rope's location to where number two had been. Rita was exhausted, as she had started to get cold. In addition, she had bumped one of her knees causing great pain (like an elbow funny bone injury), which was bothering her. It was left up to Betsy and I to do most of the hauling for about 20 minutes. We were probably each pulling 14 to 56 pounds due to poor timing, exhaustion, loose footing, etc. Pull, pull, pull, stop, hold, pull the slack out from between the handled ascender and the Mini-Traxion, number one is holding (the Petzl Mini-Traxion), move number two (the handled ascender) forward, were the orders for the next hour over and over again. We pulled about 80 feet of rope up and then Pat said asked if he could try climbing again. Well, the answer to that was, "Yes, climb away!" He had to stop and we had to haul some more but finally he climbed the rest of the way out! By this time, it was 7:30 p.m. Back at Thorn Spring Park at 7:20 p.m., Eddie finally convinced Leah, his wife, that time was up and they called for rescue. Thank you Eddie and Leah! It is really nice to have people you can rely on.
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