Eagle Cave & Chimney Mt.
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Location: Eagle Caves at Chimney Mt, near Speculator, NY (click here to see rough map of where to park)
Dates: Saturday, October 13, 2007
Who:
Ben D., Patrick D. (the younger), Alec F., John K., Brandon M., Jason M., David M., Evan M., Jeremy R., Doug S., Matt S., Chris S. Tom Bashant, Jim Derrane, John Dooley, Mike Fitzsimmons and his two sons Brian and Mike, John Ivory, Ken McDonald, Cliff Rose, David Scarafile, Jennifer Scarafile
Notes: Special guests included Sarah D., and two younger brothers.  This was a huge crowd, and we had a BLAST.

I don't think I can begin to describe just how cool this trip was.  The idea actually formed when a good friend talked about recent trips he'd made to the spot, and he provided us with the following link...
http://www.steuben.org/hobbies/ChimneyMountain/index.html

It seems to be the definitive source of information about these caves and how to navigate them.  We used them as a source of inspiration and hope.  Having a passing knowledge of them is sufficient to find the caves and get a fair distance into them, but a lot of the fun is in making your own discoveries.





  

The Ascent

Getting there is half the fun.  It was a wonderful day - nice and crisp.  We were all shedding our outer layers pretty quick into the hike.  It wasn't a rough trip... not much different than Bald Mountain, actually.  From the trailhead to the main peak of Chimney Mt, it took us only 45 minutes or so.

It turns out there are two peaks of sorts to the mountain.  As you approach, there will be an opportunity to branch off to the left.  We missed this completely, and ended up at the main peak on the Eastern or Right hand side.  This has the classic rock structures which give the mountain its name, and which you can see in the photos here.  The craggy rocks and such were a lot of fun to go poking around.

There's a rift between the East and West peaks, and it took some amount of poking around to figure out how to get over to where the cave entrance is.  Fortunately, there were a couple of other groups heading up to the caves that day, and we ended up following one of them.

The actual opening is very obvious, once you get to it.  It's on the West side of the mountain, over the edge from the top of the Western side.  If you're on the side with the really cool rocks, you're on the wrong peak.

Again, the link above has all sorts of related stuff, including detailed descriptions and maps on how to get to the cave opening.  (I just wish we'd brought printouts.)  But as I say, part of the fun is in the discovery.  For those who are curious, the GPS coords are +43 41' 37.50", -74 12' 53.88" for the cave entrance.  (43 41.625, -74 12.898)









The Insides

I'll leave it to the above link to provide all the really detailed discussion about what's in these caves and such.  Here are a few extra notes though, based on what we saw and did and learned...

bulletWe had everybody bring 3 sources of light.  Nobody needed more than the one, and we were in the caves for about 2 and a half hours.  The LED ones that strap to your head were certainly the best, and they kept your hands free
bulletEntry into the main cave itself was relatively easy, once you got past the claustrophobia issues.
bulletJim Derrane built a wonderful rope ladder out of PVC pipe, and that was perfectly sufficient for descending from the main room down into the Bat Room.  John Dooley and he did a wonderful job of securing it and policing its use.  For the areas we explored during our stay, no other ropes or climbing equipment was necessary.




The Bat Room really, really has bats!

 Hundreds of them.  Hundreds and hundreds of them.  Thousands.  You could hear them like mice when they got agitated.  Some started to fly around, but none really got to bothering us.  Once in a while you might have one bump into you, but it was no big deal.  It sounds a lot freakier than it really turned out to be.

While there, we met a church group of about a dozen people, and another Scout Troop (107?), that's been in there about six or seven times before.  These guys seemed to know what they were doing!

Rather than using a rope ladder, they rappelled down into the bat room.  On a prior trip, they said they were underground for about five and a half hours.  Even so, they said that they've not even gotten close to seeing all there was to see in here.

The photos on these pages will give you the mistaken impression that things were easy to see.  That ain't true!  It was pitch dark in here.  You'll notice that we brought and used glow sticks for all the people, and this turned out to be a nice idea.

Near the end of the time in the caves, a couple of the adults (who will remain nameless) decided to go off on their own to check out an area that they'd not yet gotten to.  Although that was pretty cool, they unfortunately got lost (!) and could not find the path back to where they came in.  The panic lasted only a few seconds, but it drove home just how scary and dangerous this can be.  When you have a crowd of 25 or so poking around as a group, you feel safe.  When it's just a couple of guys on their own, leaving a string trail is critically important.





 


We finished the adventure by consuming large amounts of pizza and soda at a great little place at the main intersection in Speculator.  This was a great trip!