The Month's Guano

October 1999
Kansas City Area Grotto
Volume 13, Issue 9

Search and Rescue
September Minutes
Novice Gear
Nylon Highway

Search and Rescue Drill at Devil's Icebox
Saturday, September 25, 1999
Submitted by Jeff Page, NSS# 45699

Devil's Ice Box is located in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park (RBM), south of Columbia, MO. From September through March, the park conducts tours through the cave for the general public. The goal is to give people an experience of recreational caving, as well as instruct them on various Karst studies. Tours are led by Wild Cave Tour (WCT) leaders who are trained by the park. From time to time, the park schedules rescue training for the WCT leaders in conjunction with the Boone County Fire Protection District (BCFPD) and Chouteau Grotto, Columbia's caving club.

This year's training began Friday evening at the park headquarters, where WCT leaders met with Jeff Scott of BCFPD. Jeff is also a long time caver. He showed us a video and slides outlining the command structure of a cave rescue and the division of responsibilities. We touched on some of the specifics of the next days' activities, but were not told the actual rescue scenario. We would know that at 8:00 AM the next day. There was to be one live "victim" and the rest dummies represented by a safety vest with a note attached describing their distress. Jeff, Scott Schulte and Roxie Campbell (both of RBM) were the only ones who knew of the "victims" particulars. They would act as observers in the cave and assess the effectiveness of the rescue. Other non participants included a reporter and photographer from the Columbia Daily Tribune.

The day began with all participants arriving by eight ready to cave. The scenario was thus described: A group of ten cavers had not come out of the cave at their expected time of midnight. They had entered about 6:00 PM with a relatively inexperienced leader. The caving abilities of the group were not known. The park was notified by a frantic parent. The park called BCFPD, WCT leaders, and grotto members.

Five teams were assembled with a mix of each group. This assured that each team had someone familiar with the cave (WCT), tried and true cavers (grotto) and an EMT (BCFPD). There was also a dedicated BCFPD team who would handle evacuation equipment with assistance from a search team. The search teams were to mark passages with two reflective markers that they were searching. If the passage was clear, they were to leave one marker on their way out. If they found a victim, the EMT was to stay with the victim and the others were to return leaving three markers. They would then backtrack to the Search Team Manager (STM) with their information.

The first half mile of the cave is a water passage which has to be traversed in canoes. The park has enough boats to accommodate the thirty-seven people involved. The first team in was called the Hasty Team. Their assignment was to blitz search the cave and return to the boat landing (850M) with information for the subsequent Red, White, Blue and Green teams.

I arrived at the boat landing with the Red team headed by Matt Buehler of Hannibal. Close behind was the White team. The Hasty team had not returned by then. Rather than just sit and wait the teams decided to split up and search some of the nearby rooms and side passages while waiting on Hasty. I stayed at the landing to inform other arrivals of our action plan. Red and White soon returned having found no one. Hasty got back to the landing with information of the lost party. They had found the leader (vest with note) at Meander Cutoff (1450M). His light had gone out and was waiting for rescue. He told Hasty that he and two others had gone up the Left Fork to the Mountain Room (LF2500). The remaining seven had continued into the main passage and he didn't know where they were. One of his party (the live "victim") suffered a critical leg injury in the Mountain Room and had an exposed femur. The leader had gone for help alone when his light went out at Meander. Hasty went to the mountain room, left their EMT with the victim, and returned to the boat landing.

By now all search teams had arrived and the team leaders gathered for a meeting with the STM. Blue was deployed to the Mountain Room with the evacuation team to remove the live victim. The other teams were deployed to the main passage, some going deep and working their way back and others fanning out in the side passages on the way. All teams understood that they were to stop searching at 2:30 and return to the boat landing.

The Red team was assigned to search side passages on the way into the main. This involved water crawls, mud crawls and climbs into domes. I thought my team performed very well and used good judgment in assessing the probabilities. We never found any victims on our search which ended at the Waterfall formation (2500M). I felt good about what we had done, but had some regret about not being involved with the evacuation of the live victim. On our way out, we learned that all remaining victims had been recovered (around Chert Bridges (3000M))and the operation was a success.

Back at Park HQ, we cleaned the boats and equipment, then gathered for a critique of the day while pizzas were ordered. All involved felt that the operation went very well. Some voiced concern that the communication was too slow using the "runner system". One asked if the NCRC could be involved on the next one. The reflective markers were criticized for being too flimsy to stick in the hard mud in some spots. Some of the EMTs pointed out that a victim with a femur injury of that nature would have most likely not survived. Scott Schulte pointed out that this was a "worst case" scenario that would probably not happen in the Ice Box. Our teams were probably larger than what would be assembled in a real case. Searching for ten people gave everyone enough to do. All groups felt that they had come away with valuable lessons and we congratulated each other for our efforts.

For my part, I developed a real appreciation for caving safety by observing what a phenomenal effort may be needed to rescue just one unfortunate caver. It's comforting to know that people are taking the time to train for this. My thanks to RBM for an exciting weekend.

Attached is the story that appeared Sunday in Columbia.

[Columbia Daily] Tribune Online News Story

Story ran on September 26, 1999

Rescuers prepare for icy chill Agencies practice for potential cave tragedy.

By CHRISTOPHER LEONARD of the Tribune's staff

Imagine search and rescue in the underworld. All the rules are changed; standard operating procedure is meaningless. Radios don't work down there, and the only light is battery powered.

Devil's Ice Box in Rock Bridge State Park is a winding underground cave chilled to 55 degrees year-round, filled in parts with running water. If a hiker gets lost there, it can take a monumental effort to reach them. Such emergencies are rare, but do happen.

"It's common enough that when it does happen, you need to be prepared," Boone County Fire District spokesman Jeff Scott said as he entered the cave yesterday. Scott paddled a canoe through chilly waters that fill the first stretch of the cave. Bats flew by his head now and then, bursting out of the darkness like tiny gobs of light, then disappearing.

Scott took part in a training exercise in Devil's Ice Box yesterday meant to hone emergency crews' ability to work in caves. Their goal was to "rescue" 10 fictional spelunkers lost in the cave. Scott has been through the tunnels many times, and not always for recreation.

"Right here is where two guys capsized. We found their canoe over there," he said, referring to a time in 1973 when two men in their 20s flipped their canoe in the Icebox and drowned.

"Their lights went out when they flipped, they didn't know up from down," he said.

Such tragedies have led the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to restrict access to the cave. Tours are only allowed from September through March, and a trained guide is required to lead the tours.

Yesterday's drill brought together members from the fire district, DNR and private spelunkers. The fire district is usually first on the scene for emergencies, but spelunkers are often called in for assistance.

"That way, they don't just run in there and not know what they're doing," spelunker Daryl Greaser said. He belongs to the Chouteau Grotto, a local caving club that meets every month. For them, being trapped in cold, muddy holes is a dream vacation. "It's what I live for, man," Greaser said. He said spelunkers' familiarity with caves is an asset during a search.

During the training exercise yesterday, the group of about 30 searchers broke into teams and went down different corridors starting at 9 a.m. Most of the "victims" were merely orange vests with a note pinned to them leading searches on to new areas.

As the day wore on and the teams penetrated deep into the cave, it became apparent why so many people are drawn to the Ice Box, why they crawl on all fours over wet gravel and squeeze through narrow passages just to see it.

Rock formations hang from the ceiling and stretch from the floors like fluid steeples of some ancient church. Crystal structures sprout up, swallowing light and glowing a mellow green in the dark.

The ceilings are covered in places with fossils from old Missouri oceans, and bats chirp in the shadows.

At one point, the group gathered around to look at a pink planarian worm, a species that has only been found in Devil's Ice Box. It lives in a world of total darkness, one that seems completely isolated. In fact, it's a world intimately connected with our own.

"See that deep brown and orange patch there?" asks Roxie Campbell from the DNR. "There must be some car or something rusting up on the surface and dripping down here. I wish we could find it.

"That's something we try to emphasize a lot, that land-use decisions up there have an effect down here," she said.

The rescue team was careful to disturb as little as possible throughout the day. They retrieved victims who were hiding in the cave pretending to be wounded.

"It was a great learning experience," park superintendent Scott Schulte said. "That's the purpose of it, to bring these groups together so we can learn lessons for the future." *

Posted With Permission


Article V. Elections. The election of officers shall be conducted in the following manner:
A. At the November meeting, the Vice-president will appoint a nominating committee of at least three (3) grotto members.
B. The nominating committee will submit its report at the December meeting, at which time additional nominations shall be accepted from the floor.
C. All nominees must give the grotto verbal or written consent before the end of the December meeting for their names to be placed on the ballot.
D. Elections will be held at the January meeting.
E. Absentee ballots will be provided by the Vice-president following a members written request. Absentee ballots must be returned to the Vice-president before the January meeting.
F. Officers will be elected by a majority of those voting.
G. Unfilled or vacated offices may be filed by presidential appointment, unless overruled by a majority vote of the members.

2000 KCAG Officers Nomination Ballot

Please fill out and submit your Nomination

Nomination form can be found in the printed form of the October Guano

September Minutes

  • Meeting called to order at 7-00 p.m
  • NCRC (National Cave Rescue Commission) TRAINING
  • Mike McKinney and Terry DeFraties attended a Level One cave rescue program in West Virginia August 14-22. Mike reported that it was an intense program which ran from 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily for eight days.
  • In order to conduct some internal Grotto rescue training, Mike asked for supply donations such as: closed cell foam pads, webbing, tarps, fanny packs, & wool blankets. Other equipment, such as pulleys, would need to be purchased.
  • May 13 & 14, 2000 is the solid date set for the KCAG sponsored NCRC Weekend Orientation Course.
  • Mike & Terry are scheduled to meet with the Meramec State Park Superintendent & Department of Conservation and Forestry to discuss Meramec as a location for the Orientation. The meeting is set for Sept. 13 right after Kathy Carr's Meramec novice trip.
  • Regan Youngman reported that there is currently $597.71 in the treasury. After some coaxing Regan also announced her engagement to fellow grotto member, Barry Godsey (the bald guy).
  • Bryon Carmoney & John McGuire have been checking on the price of printing T-Shirts to sell as a fundraiser. The average price per shirt would be approximately $5 each. Depending on whether the shirts would sell for $15 or $20, the profit would be either $10 or $15 per shirt.
  • Randy Bruegger reported that Grotto auctions (items donated by members) have historically made approx. $300.00. Randy further estimated that a properly organized MVOR could bring in a $1,200.00 to $1,500.00 profit as long as security measures are enforced to ensure all attendees pay the entry fee.
  • These estimations reveal that the Grotto would have to sell approximately 25 undiscounted T-Shirts to make the same profit as one auction, or, sell over 100 undiscounted T-Shirts to net the same as a well organized MVOR.
  • Terry DeFraties suggested that a KCAG booth selling batteries at future MVORs be considered further as a fundraising project.
  • Randy Bruegger opened a discussion on the necessity or non-necessity of KCAG's affiliation with the NSS. Randy reported that there is currently a trend for Missouri Grottos to drop their affiliation with the NSS in light of reimbursements for the last two the dispute over travel expense NSS conventions held in Missouri.
  • Bryon asked members for input on discussion on the numerous inquiries he is numerous inquiries he is getting from Boyscout troops for cave trip assistance. Several members stated that they would only be willing to consider helping with a scout cave trip under the following conditions:
    1. The scout leader must be willing to attend a KCAG meeting and askmembers directly for assistance
    2. The troop of boys must be some time in the future willing to have grotto member(s) attend one of their meetings and size up their readiness for a cave trip.
  • Kathy Sumner suggested that perhaps Scout caving inquiries could also be referred to the High Adventure Scout Troop in Prairie Village who recently produced a nationally distributed video on the subject of caving
  • Bernhard Arnold opened a necessity or non necessity of KCAG representation at the MSS is taking this preemptive step MSS meetings held in Rolla. Bernhard and Jeff Page have been attending the meetings even though KCAG is not currently participating in MSS activities.
  • The primary current activity of MSS is digitizing Missouri cave maps into a database. The map repository is presently state funded. case the state should choose to deny public access to the maps
  • Some KCAG members expressed willingness to assist MSS in their need to have people go to caves and verify reports before maps are digitized.
    Bryon reported on his first visit to the Carroll Cave Dig. See last issue of Guano for official Dig Report.
  • Randy attended the OHG (Ozark Highland Grotto) picnic at Ennis on August 28 & 29. He reported that they hosted a great party with about 30 people in attendance. They were able to look at some original maps of Ennis which now exceeds 4 miles in length.
    Regan asked members to bring a short piece of rope or some webbing to the October meeting for knot tying practice.
  • Meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.

    Novice Gear

    We shall be putting to a close the discussion on the Novice gear weather we should charge a fee or not. Below is a letter I received from Jo Schaper. See you at the meeting.


    The second thing is about your quartermaster gear. Instead of charging 'rental', charge a maintenance fee for gear use . Make it perfectly clear to your borrowers that this has nothing to do with caving per se; but its just a way for the grotto to ensure that quartermaster gear is kept in tiptop shape by the participants contributing towards the maintenance of the gear.

    Nothing can ensure against liability suits in case of an accident, but a maintenance fee is perfectly reasonable (bowling alleys charge what is in essence a shoe maintenance fee, to ensure there are shoes available, and this does not put the bowling alley at any more risk because of the misuse of the shoes, or bowling accidents.) I am not, nor have never been a lawyer, but there is a world of difference between a maintenance fee, and the liability involved in charging admission to a cave. Take care, and hope you have fun at pizza after your meeting.

    Jo Schaper

    Nylon Highway

    The Vertical Section, an Internal Organization of the National Speleological Society now has a new format for its regular publication, the Nylon Highway. As the new Editor of the Nylon Highway please allow me to attempt an explanation of this new format.

    The decision was made by the Board of the Vertical Section at their meeting during the '99 NSS Convention to distribute the Nylon Highway in both an electronic format and as paper copies. The electronic format will be password accessible on the web site to electronic subscribers. A complete volume consisting of all articles submitted during the year will be printed, and sent to those preferring a paper journal at the end of the year. To ensure the timeliness of the information submitted, each article will be posted on the web site as soon as possible. Along with the posting to the web site, the articles will be available for downloading in a pleasing format and layout as a PDF document. Using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader one will be able to view, save and print the Nylon Highway in the magazine/newsletter format with all photos, diagrams, etc. The electronic version will remain archived on the web site indefinitely.

    The Board feels that this will be a great cost savings for the Vertical Section as well as allowing for a much quicker flow of current information to the membership. Seeing that one of the official goals of the Vertical Section is to encourage the development of safe vertical caving techniques and their application, new information and research in the areas of safety and techniques should be in the hands of the end user as soon as possible. We hope these changes will produce a superior Nylon Highway, one that is on the cutting edge of the Information Age. I am earnestly seeking submission of suitable material for publication in the new Nylon Highway. What better location to publish your research, present your new idea, share your latest discovery and demonstrate that newly refined technique? The Nylon Highway is the ideal medium to introduce new vertical procedures, display refined rigging methods or offer your insight on systems used for vertical work. With the new Nylon Highway, we are giving you the avenue to express your ideas, questions and concerns. The "soap box" is yours! You now have the ears of one of the largest I/O's in the NSS waiting to hear what you have to say. Submit your material now and in the feature. With your help, we can continue to make the Nylon Highway the leading publication in the vertical caving field.

    For more information and membership see the Vertical Section's web site at:

    Send submissions for publication to:
    Tim White, Editor Nylon Highway

    Former editor, Wm Shrewsbury has Nylon Highway issues #43 and #44 ready for mailing. Expect these, along with a letter explaining the new membership plans in early September.

    October 1999 Vol.13 Issue10
    The Month's Guano is published on the second Wednesday. Twelve issues annually.
    Submit articles to editor at least 10 days prior to publication date. Guano Subscription rate for nonmenbers:$6.00 anually.

    President: Byron Carmoney
    Vice President: Regan Youngman
    Treasurer: Regan Youngman
    Secretary: Kathy Sumner
    Editor:Byron Carmoney
    Asst. ED:Kate Johnson
                Wayne A. Burnett
    E-mail adress:

    Kansas City Area Grotto is affiliated witht he National Speleological Society, The Misouri Speleological Survey, and a Founding Member of Misouri Caves & Karst Conservancy.

    Meetings helf every second Wednesday at 7p.m. (alternate site in May), Magg Hall, behind Spencer Laboratories, Volker Blvd. & Cherry, Kansas City, Misouri. Annual Dues: $10 for Full Members (3 caving trips with KCAG, nonmination and vote of membership required.)

    NCRC Callout number Emergency use only

    Central Region 502-564-7815. This number may be used for cave rescue emergencies in the states of, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Misouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.