Baltimore Grotto Trip to Scott Hollow Cave

November 10, 2001
by Bob Robins

Baltimore Grotto scheduled a trip to Scott Hollow Cave as a cover for a surprise presentation of an award from the Virginia Region to Mike and Pat Dore, the cave owners. I had never been to Scott Hollow so I decided to join the group for the opportunity to see the Tourist Area of the cave. The Tourist Area of Scott Hollow Cave includes the route down to Mystic River, about 2,500 feet of the river itself, and a loop from the Junction Room along Chris’ Trunk as far as the W Room to the North and back along the Omega Trail to the Mystic River.

I left town early since I was driving alone and didn’t want to do the whole trip in the dark. Traffic around the Washington beltway was bad as usual, but nothing like it would be a few hours later. I made the trip down in less than six hours, including gas and dinner stops, but then spent about a half hour driving back roads in Monroe and Greenbrier counties as I searched for the road into the Scott Hollow Cave campground. First I missed Scott Hollow Road, realizing my mistake when I crossed into Greenbrier County. Then I drove the full length of Scott Hollow Road without seeing any signs to direct me to the campground. I was expecting the Baltimore Grotto folks to put out a sign by the road, but I finally discovered that there was a permanent sign at the road – just above the area lit by my high beams.

I found a level spot to park the van and joined the group already gathered around the campfire. During a break in conversation I asked where the cave was and was pointed back toward the main road and offered a tour of the “cave house”. Even in the dark the cave house is an impressive building, looking like a nice resort home.

Mike & Pat Dore's Cave House
Scott Hollow Cave House

Once inside, its unique architectural features became apparent. Our tour first took us up the steps to the first floor and across the room to a circular plywood hatch in the floor. Upon opening the hatch we were looking down a large corrugated pipe, with rebar ladder rungs, descending vertically for thirty feet into the darkness. A turn to the right and we were looking at a belay loft and climbing wall extending from the basement level to the high ceiling above the second floor (and beyond since the climbing wall extends above the roof). Going all the down to the lowest level brought us to a construction area that will become a walk-in entrance to the cave when finished.

The campfire was cozy, but after a long drive I decided to turn in early hoping for an early start to caving since the entrance was so close. It was a cold night with temperatures down around 20°F and a warm breakfast was welcome as we rekindled the fire. Alas, an early start was not to be had. Milling around like good cavers, we managed to not get into the cave until noon. Finally though, we entered the cave house and descended the pipe into the cave.

The Entrance to Scott Hollow Cave
The Entrance to Scott Hollow Cave

Gathering at the top of the entry passage, we proceeded down the steep, breakdown-covered slope of Mastodon Avenue, presumably named for the jawbone of a young Mastodon found when the cave was first entered. We missed the crossover to Patty Lane, halfway down Mastodon Avenue, and continued on to the Junction Room where we entered the North-South Passage, quickly getting our feet wet in the stream.

We exited the stream, climbing up and through breakdown in the Middle Earth area, and then descended back down once more to a stream, where we could hear a faint roar ahead. Since my group consisted of first-time visitors to Scott Hollow, our leader sent us through one at a time to maximize the dramatic affect of first entering the large passage of Mystic River. The river was a fairly modest stream at this point due to protracted dry weather, but the passage dimensions were impressive.

Once at the river, we made our way downstream, working our way from bank to bank trying to avoid the deeper pools, occasionally climbing the banks where we encountered some formations, rimstone dams and a rope hanging tantalizingly from a high ledge. Before long we reached the First Sump, a large pool of still, clear greenish water and the Northern limits of the Tourist Area. If we had climbed the rope encountered earlier, we would have been able to bypass this sump and continue on downstream.

From the sump, we turned around and headed upstream, setting our sights on reaching the Double Waterfall that constitutes the Southern limit of the Tourist Area. As we neared the Double Waterfall area, we encounter a large breakdown pile. Climbing the breakdown gave us a view of a deep lake that seemed to fill the passage from wall to wall. I tried going along the left wall and ended up at a high ledge over a beach, clear of the lake but with no obvious way down. Meanwhile our leaders – we now had two as another couple that entered with us had caught up again – were searching the breakdown pile for a climb down through the breakdown on the left wall that would get us past the lake.

Just as they rediscovered the route we heard a loud crash from the downstream side of the breakdown pile followed by several loud cries for help. Two other cavers from our group had split off earlier and were attempting to rejoin us when one of them had grabbed a piece of breakdown about the size of a small file cabinet for a handhold, which then proceeded to fall. The rock wedged between two massive blocks of breakdown trapping his leg just above the ankle and leaving him hanging by the trapped foot. The foot was tightly wedged in a notch at the top of the junction between one breakdown block and the rock.

Fortunately his companion’s cries for help brought six of us scrambling over the breakdown in short order. We were able to stabilize him and begin working to shift the rock With one person under the rock and several of us pulling up on slings wrapped around the rock, we were able to lift the rock just enough to allow another person to remove his foot. Our leader, a former Army medic, determined there were no broken bones or other major damage. With the ingredients magically appearing out of various cave packs, he cleaned the wound (an avulsion) with an antiseptic solution, butterflied the wound shut, wrapped the injured area with an elastic bandage and administered some oral pain medication. The victim was able to exit the cave under his own power, with some occasional support, and actually made it out of the cave well ahead of the slower half of our group.

The trip out was relatively uneventful, though we had one false start finding our way out of the junction room and up the notorious  “Drag Ass Hill”, so named because of the long, steep climb out. This time we started up Patty Lane and, finding the crossover this time, finished in Mastodon Avenue. We were traveling at a slow pace and the climb didn’t seem too grueling, but several days later I can feel my sore knees. When we reached the exit, we took turns chimneying up about eight feet to the bottom of the pipe for the climb out, reaching the surface around 5:00pm.

As everyone returned from the cave, most of us gathered around the fire. Temperatures had risen but were accompanied by a strong, gusty wind that was constantly moving round the fire, chasing us with smoke and occasional bursts of sparks. Meanwhile a few dedicated souls were working on preparation of our evening feast – a spaghetti & ham dinner. After dinner we got to the primary reason for the weekend – the surprise presentation to Mike & Pat Dore of a VAR Landowner Recognition Award. Baltimore Grotto had nominated the Dore’s, owners of Scott Hollow Cave, for the award. Following the award we relaxed around fire assisted by calmer winds.

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  Last Updated: February 12, 2004