Horsethief: Trip 53: White Dirt Maze

Date: 06/17/2023
Author: Savannah Sawyer
Participants: Carl “FrozDog” Froslie, Luke Maslak, Neil Hooker, Terry Call, Zach Slusher

Trip 53: White Dirt

As the second Horsethief Cave survey weekend of the season approached, Carl and I were eager to get up to Armpit. This would be our first Horsethief trip this season and it was looking like a great weekend to be in the area. We got out of town at a decent time and ran into Olivia and the Cave Dawgs in Lovell, Wyoming while getting the necessary gas station snacks. Within a few minutes we were caravanning up to Armpit. There has been above average precipitation in the area this year, therefore Carl felt the need to give a “Puddle Report” along the route. It was noted that much of the sediment had been removed from the road, leaving very rocky sections, most notably prior the last climb before dropping into Armpit. We were the first ones to camp, but Jessica and Stephen from the Pryor Mountain Cave Crew showed up shortly after and we gave them the official tour of Armpit before calling it a night.

Teams were decided the next morning by signing up for trips on the white board. There were almost 20 cavers signed up for the weekend, and very few are qualified to sketch, so it was decided to run three groups, two survey, and one recreational trip. Carl and I lead a team to the White Dirt Maze for an “Intro to Cave Survey” trip. Joining our team for the first time were Terry, Luke, Neil, and Zach. Terry and Luke, each from Wyoming, had been in Horsethief on previous trips, but were new to surveying.  Neil, from Colorado, and Zach, from Utah, had more experience in caving and surveying, but had never been to Horsethief. It was decided that all three of the groups would go to the Mind Bender Pool area and split up from there. After our team calibrated Distos in the entrance, we headed into the cave and I locked the gate behind us. We then quickly caught up to the first two groups in Denise’s Crawl.

After everyone made it past Mind Bender Pool, our team made our way to the Crack Where the Water Comes Down to visit with Dylan’s group. Leading his first trip to this area, we found Dylan crawling into the wrong crack and I guided him to the correct location where he quickly chimneyed his way up. He then used the meat anchor technique and assisted most participants of his group up the awkward chimney with a length of webbing, while two waited behind. After wishing them well on their trip to the Carpet Room, Carl and I decided to take a minute to locate the D-line station that we would be using to start the DW-line. We located D62, then took a lunch break before getting started on the survey down the White Dirt Maze.

Having varied experience within our group, we decided that I would work with Terry and Luke on instruments and setting stations. Since they were new to cave survey, we wanted them to learn the importance of instrument accuracy and well-placed stations. Zach and Neil are more experienced, having been involved in cave surveys in other states, and were eager to practice sketching, so Carl set them up with their own sketchbooks and discussed how to fill in necessary information for the project. Will gave us 15 station markers and we intended on using all of them before leaving the cave that evening.

Once everyone was comfortable with their jobs, we set out to conquer the White Dirt Maze. The team got into a smooth rhythm of reading distances and LRUDs, with the occasional photos, jokes, and fossil identification. We had easy walking passage, some sections of crawling, and more walking. The White Dirt Maze is, you guessed it, full of white dirt. It is not just boring white dirt. It is the softest, finest, and whitest dirt you can imagine. The area is also very mazy and continues in many directions with many marked leads continuing far from where we ended our survey at station DW15. We were having a great time and could have stayed longer, but a few hours went by in no time as we found ourselves setting the last station for the day. The White Dirt crew was sad that the trip was coming to an end, but we were pleased with our accomplishments for the day.

After wrapping up our survey we had a fun journey back to the surface and enjoyed a beer with Terry and Luke before they headed down the mountain. We waited for the last team to exit the cave and we returned to Armpit for food, beer, and tall tales around the fire. The three teams compared stories from the day and discussed future plans. As many cave trips go, new friends were made. I hope Zach, Neil, Luke, and Terry return for another survey trip at Horsethief. It was fun, enlightening, and got me excited for the next trip to Armpit.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments