Sunday, November 4, 2018

Western Regional Meeting of the NSS at Great Basin National Park

 Every fall, the Western Region of the National Speleological Society (NSS) holds an annual meeting. This year it was held at Great Basin National Park and organized by the Southern Nevada Grotto (caving club). The forecast wasn't great, but that didn't stop about 100 cavers from venturing out. After all, we were planning to spend a good amount underground, with temperatures of about 50 degrees F in the caves.

On Saturday morning, I joined Dave Bunnell's photo shoot in the Talus Room of Lehman Caves. This is a huge room that is off the regular tourist route, and the park wanted some photos to capture just how immense this room is. We found we can't get the whole room in just one photo because the floor fluctuates too much. But the photographers did get a bunch of great photos, including the Rainbow Wall (below).

In the afternoon, a variety of talks were held at Baker Hall (another nice place to get out of the cold and wet weather). 

I had Desert Girl with me and brought some boxes with me so she could make her own cave. She was excited to do that.

But then an opportunity came up to go into Little Muddy Cave with some other girls her age, and we jumped on that. 

Because I had been in the cave before, I led the trip and had the girls follow me and then the adults follow. The young girls were right behind me, loving it!

We eventually made it to the back of the cave and to the "Challenge Hole." Here's a dad giving it a try. He wasn't sure he could make it, but he did.

Leigh is heading down with no hands.

After going feet first, it was time to go head first, which was quite the plunge.

The girls kept going, trying it again and again.

Okay, some of the adults did too!

When we got back, we heard part of the business meeting and then it was time for a delicious dinner, catered by Salt & Sucre.

 Even in Baker Hall, coats and hats were being worn! It was about 20 degrees cooler than normal.

But what fun! Beginning cavers to experienced cavers were all intermingled, sharing stories.

The girls got back to making their cardboard cave.

Next was the Western Region auction with a variety of items from t-shirts to new rope.

The next morning I helped put on a mini-small party assisted rescue class. This class only lasted three hours, so we had to figure out what would be best to teach. One station was rigging for contingency, or in other words, how you can rig so if something goes wrong, you can make it right quickly.

Another station was traveling haul, one of my favorite small party techniques. You don't need any extra ropes, and if you have a couple pulleys, you can make quite an efficient system. 

Meanwhile the girls were practicing their knots in the corner.

Our third station was getting over a very difficult edge. If you have an extra ascender (mechanical or prusik) that can help a lot. Another trick is to tie a butterfly in the knot below you and stand up in that.

And back to the traveling haul with some different configurations students wanted to try (hint: a prusik at the top is not the most efficient way to set this up). 
Afterwards some folks did more caving, others started home. We had folks from California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Arizona attend. It was a lot of fun!

If you want to reminisce, here are posts from some other Western Regionals:
Lava Beds (2017), Motherlode/Sonora (2016), Joshua Tree (2015)

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