Fall Ball ’04 at the Bat Ranch
Oct. 24, 2004
by Matt Keener
It was cold. Damned Cold. The kind of cold that makes you want to hunker down deep in a hot tub. Ah, what a lovely coincidence! I had mentioned at the meeting Thursday that I might be heading down Saturday, and IMed Steve later that night to let him know I was going down and to email anyone who might be interested in coming with. Apparently the email only got through to perhaps 1/3 of the members, but anyhow, no one showed up at 9:30 when I was gonna leave. After 15 minutes, I took off, flying down the expanse of interstate that is 81. I swept into the turn off for the Bat Ranch, and noticed crazy people jumping off a rock wall to my left! Ah, of course, here I am.
I backed up and parked, and then went to join the illustrious cavers from both groups, VPI and MUSG. They were practicing rappelling and then ascending would come later. I busted out with my harness, loaded up, and headed up to the top of the cliff, slipping and sliding my way up to the top. I got there, and waited for people ascending to get there so I could go back down. I waited because I had been informed that rappelling down while someone was ascending is considered bad form in the VPI grotto. Silly guys, they just don’t get to have any fun, do they? Anyways, we roped in, and began to make our way down the slope. Now, a quick couple of notes here, this was my first time using a rack, and I had not seen anyone else go down the rope I was on. The rack is the rappelling device of choice for caving due to the higher amount of friction it imparts on the rope, important if the rope is muddy, but I digress. Anyways, as I approached the ledge, there was a rope mat lain ac! ross it that covered what lay under the ledge. And what lay under the ledge? NOTHING! So I fell, and banged my rack into the rock and generally looked like I had no idea what I was doing. It was only later someone consoled my mortification by mentioned several people had had trouble negotiating that particular blind ledge. This was my first inkling the VPI folks might be screwing with us a bit. Anyways, I made my way down (faster then I had hoped…I really need to lose some weight), and got off rope. While I wanted to try ascending, someone mentioned caving soon, and that they were only going to be sending one more group up, so I decided to beeline back and get ready to cave. Cause that’s what I was there for!
About an hour and a half later, Several of us are standing in the driveway of the bat ranch, still waiting. Apparently they had hung out for a bit, having some good old fashioned fun with prusiks while ascending again and again. We hung out, and waited, and waited and waited some more. Finally they started to show, and I decided to flirt a little with the cute Asian girl. It turns out, that she’s hot, smart, and the president of the VPI club. I was in love. Shame I was married. And she taken. Such are the vagaries of life. Anyways, we had all decided to goto Links, and again, I was taken by a sudden worry that the VPI grotto was setting us up. This makes twice…rope mat, and waiting for them. Once is coincidence, twice is accident, three times is enemy action! We’ll see where this goes.
We approached the entrance to the cave, which of course was on a hill. They’re all on hills. Every fucking cave. It’s a cave, It’s on a fucking hill. Anyways, we enter the cave, and get a little hung up on the first of four squeezes I had the fortune to go through. This one was vertical, but only about 8 inches wide down by the hips, and required a little weird shimmy to get through. There was fortunately a way around it. A quick note…in every difficulty mentioned here, before we go through, someone invariably says Ah, this is the most difficult part, it opens up after this. Now, imagine a series of even more difficult climbs, descents, and squeezes. And after each and every one…”This is the most difficult part, it opens up after this.” This was enemy action number three! It needs mentioning that someone named John went a different way that was less difficult, and he took with him 4 girls, including that bewitching Asian. I thought briefly about joining them, b! ut my manly pride wouldn’t let me turn down a challenge. Later that night, I cursed my pride many a time, as a nursed my poor, sore body. Anyways, the entire cave is similiar to 3-D in that it’s all canyon passage with lots of very narrow places. Unlike 3-D, there are no hand holds or footholds. With a few exceptions, it’s completely 100% friction climbing.
So you have tall, narrow canyons all smooth and slick, with no handholds or footholds. Difficult? Not really, not if you’re experienced in that sort of thing, but very, very tiring. We proceeded to the back of the cave, or at least as far as we were going, down a hairy friction climb, and into a 2 foot by 1 foot crawl down to a drop. Remember the comparison to 3-D? This was like the climb down into the 4th dimension, only the entrance crawl was smaller, the drop larger, and no footholds. You had to lower yourself, holding onto a crack, onto a bucket placed down there. Then there was another tight squeeze…this one I got stuck, and had to back out and try again. Sucking in my big ol’ stomach, I managed to get my hips caught, and then pop through. Once we’re through, there’s another squeeze. This one vertical…and it’s too tight. I get in to my chest, and can’t get my breastbone to compact any farther, so this is as far as I go. The rest of them make a loop and we ! have to get back over the drop back into the climb, and I can’t make it without a foothold. I really need to lose some weight. We make our way back out to the entrance, and some of those irrepressible VPI kids want to go to another climb, but realizing I’m on the end of my tether, I make my way out of the cave, but barely. I had a hard time with the last climb out of the cave, and it’s only about 4 feet high.
Now it was back to the fire, and Mike got some diesel and got the hot tub heating…just three hours til some hot tub madness! I made it back with the Diesel, and we took off for some Mexican in town at this place Rich told us about with the cutest immigrants, and the things they’ll do for a dollar!…I mean best Mexican food in town. *Cough* Anyways, I have this recommendation for anyone who happens to drive by El Rodeo in Blacksburg. Do not stop, whatever you do. I had an unpleasant couple of days after that, and I don’t think it was the Mexican tart at the door. We returned, and soon Rich and Whitney decided that the Hot Tub was hot enough. Too hot in fact, as they remained perched over the hot tub like birds of prey in the steam. As soon as the water cooled back down, I made my way to the tub, where we held enlightened conversations on kinky sex acts. Then Carl joined us, and we toned down the conversation for his benefit. Eventually, over the course of the night! , just about everyone made it into the hot tub, unfortunately including the hardcore VPI kid who spent all night complaining about the lack of women in the hot tub. I wondered from time to time if this might be perhaps the first time the kid had been around naked women. We were all a little nervous the first couple of times, so I gave him a pass, even if the girls didn’t. After the penis party had monopolized the tub for awhile, and we all made our way down to the fire, the girls took the advantage and ran for the tub. Of course, the penis party worked it’s way back, cause it’s like a compass…it always points to where the girls are, and so naturally that’s the way a man walks.
It was about that time I decided to go to bed, cause I was bored. I was told the real party had been the night before, when of course I couldn’t come. Figures. *sigh* I always miss the best parts. The next morning we woke our sorry asses up and vamoosed for Mickey D’s in a cold, misty rain. At Mickey D’s, we pooled our Monopoly pieces to win…exactly nothing! From there we met at IMO and finished the weekend in an orgy of buying! And they had the coolest fucking free posters and catalogs, so all swagged out we made our way back to the ‘Burg.