Ice and Fire (II): Rock In The Dark
Updated: Aug 6
Sometime's you really need to step back to appreciate what's been front of you all along. In this case, it was also in the dark.
Days after our first frustrating attempts at transporting stone from 40 feet above down the narrow, winding chasm of the Ice Cave trail at Sam's Point Preserve, I was back onsite alone.
In the back of my head I could still hear all the banter from the prior weekend. People above, below and to every side shouting commands trying to coordinate numerous ropes, winches and pulleys in a kind of strange puppetry act with consequences. We had pulled off a successful drop of one stone, but the ones following it had failed. It was a stressful weekend for the crew's morale and with less than a week before launching the project, we still had no safe and efficient means of transporting stone.
Walking up and down the open chasm of the worksite I wrote down the final layout as if supplying the building material wouldn't be an issue. At the bottom of of my final lap I stopped and felt a breeze on my cheek. Turning my head to acknowledge the source, I peered into a dark and narrow cave off trail. The cave rested at the bottom of what would be our worksite. Not much to look at, it was essentially a small dark rectangle, hiding whatever was inside.
Throwing on my headlamp I scrambled down and saw what had been right in front of us all along. Slab after slab of beautifully aged stone, pre-split to varying sizes as the centuries of geologic pressure did it's work. As far as building materials went, it was a jackpot. The only question was how to get it out.
Journeying further in I quickly discovered that the narrow width only got narrower the further I went. In order to rig these stones out of the cave without scarring it, ourselves, or our gear, we would need an open straightaway through the darkness and something high and solid to anchor into for leverage. Looking up, the cave ceiling drastically increased in height revealing winding walls of wet slippery rock. Continuing down the shaft I came upon the perfect stone, 12 feet above the cave floor and wedged perfectly between it's narrow walls. Looking behind me towards the light was the perfect keyhole. It was possible; rather than fly our stone from above, we would fly it from within.
That following weekend another of our small crews arrived to try their hand at what would be our first ever "Cave Line." Setting one pulley on a tripod outside the cave entrance and the other around the stone wedged within the cave walls, we began the process of lifting stone after stone and flying them out of the darkness.
Seeing the first stone emerge into the sun smoothly was a sight to behold, smiles were raised all around as it was lowered to the ground. Stone after stone would get flown out that day with no issues. By the end of the first day the crews rhythm had picked up and by the end of Sunday a large stack of building material was cached at the base of the project just in time for the following weeks big trip.
Sometime's you really need to step back to appreciate what's been front of you all along. In this case, it was also in the dark, and the solution would prove to be just as dramatic as the problem it solved.